ALAN SULLIVAN’S SERIAL: The Splendid Silence
The swift rush of events culminates in a breath-taking climax in this instalment of
LOIS went home a little later, not doubting the wisdom of Wragge’s advice, but totally unprepared to accept it. She did not expect that a man like Wragge would not know a good deal about women, and perhaps a great deal about a few. That did not disturb her calculating and very sophisticated mind. But she was more than ever convinced that this thing—whatever it was— lay at the root of the sudden change in her own probable future. How could one put such a matter aside?
She was prepared now to marry Wragge, but if Duncan’s plans had not been so abruptly upset, she would be preparing to marry him. It looked, too, as if this thing, so wrapped in unnecessary mystery, had brought about the revulsion. Duncan must know something about it—perhaps indeed knew all—but did not consider it creditable, and cleared out in order to avoid further complications. The more one went into it, the more confusing the whole affair. And Lois did not quite like Wragge’s following up his proposal by refusing to cast a reasonable light on a rather important thing. No—she would try Marian.
The opportunity came that evening when Seymour and his wife dropped in to say good-by. Seymour was secretly very hungry for sight of his son, but his pride on that point held him silent. Nor had he felt able to discuss the matter with Marian.
So many reasons for this, but one was sufficient. She had invested his life with even more than he had anticipated. She understood. She had the rare faculty of feeling, instantly, the right thing to do and say. She was gentle, intriguing and very wise. Of her own past, with its trials and uncertainties, she said practically nothing, but showed constantly how she appreciated the change to the setting of to-day.
But deep under this perfect surface moved something that Seymour lacked the courage to face. It was always there, often asleep, but waking to disturbing life when he least expected it. It involved both Marian and Duncan.
He knew Duncan—all of Duncan—ever since the boy’s first breath; knew his honesty, his impulsiveness, and how incapable he was of deceit or evasion. And Duncan— he could never forget this—was the gift of his first love.
‘Was it impossible,’ he whispered to himself when he was not under the spell of Marian’s presence, ‘that perhaps—conceivably—there might be another side to the story, in virtue of which Duncan had taken his only gallant course—and sacrificed himself?’
Such was the price Seymour had paid for his fascination, and he found himself utterly unable to put the question save to himself, and then very secretly.
• He used to look at Marian, admire her beauty and serenity, bask in the grace that was her chief characteristic, and push away the discomforting thing that would obtrude itself. He had married her; she was an ornament to the home of which he was so proud; no breath of suspicion concerning her had ever reached him; and with the manner of a man whoselove issuch thatitsaps hisindividuality and moral strength, he preferred to keep silent rather than risk the destruction of what he had achieved in the eyes of his friends.
‘There’s nothing in it,’ he would say to himself, ‘nothing whatever, and I’m mad to imagine it.’
But of late, as often as he got that far and the beast of doubt drew in its ugly horns and receded, he seemed to get a glimpse of Duncan’s honest brown eyes, and a phantom shape that took the form of Duncan would ask if he had ever failed to play the game with his father.
The news of the accident disturbed him deeply. He got it that evening at the Chesters’, and was too proud to say that he had received no word himself. Duncan, he thought, was punishing him unnecessarily in this respect. He felt happier to know that the boy was up and about.
It seemed, too, that the eyes of Lois, which would so soon be meeting Duncan’s, were more than usually inquisitive. So, Seymour took the first opportunity of joining Chester in his study to talk about the business end of this new undertaking. Marian and Lois found themselves alone for a little while.
“Any messages?” said the latter, trying hard to disguise her curiosity.
“Tell him how thankful I am that the accident is not serious. And will you take him some cigarettes?”
“Yes, of course.”
“I’ll send them to the steamer. And,” she added softly, “tell him I think of him very often, and wish he would write to me.”
Lois nodded, wondering if Marian would say anything more illuminating, then caught a very keen glance.
“Duncan will be delighted to see you, and your father. He doesn’t know Mr Wragge, does he?”
“No. How long have you known him?”
“We met on the continent some years ago.”
“He admires you immensely. Do you remember what he said about you?”
“It was very good of him.” Marian’s eyes were quite calm.
“He was talking about you to-day, that time we saw you from the car.” She paused, because it had just struck her that the attitude of a girl whose lover has vanished on the arrival of another woman was a perfectly reasonable one for her to adopt.
“You won’t mind my asking you,” she went on, “but you see Duncan and I were such friends, then it all ended very abruptly. Now I’m going to see him, and—”
“With Mr. Wragge,” suggested Marian amiably.
“Yes—who is traveling on business with my father. And I’m going to see Duncan, so probably he’ll tell me more than he did before—which was really nothing. So wouldn’t it seem natural to you that I should want to know something in a matter which affects me so much?”
“I can understand how you feel, but what can I tell you?”
“Why Duncan really went. Haven’t I a right to know?”
“It’s hardly for me to speak when Duncan said nothing himself.”
Lois’ mouth tightened a shade. “It’s all very strange. I’m interested, and have a right to be, and yet I know nothing.”
“In which man are you interested most?” Marian’s lips had a faint smile.
“Is it important to you to know?” asked Lois wickedly. She was tantalized with the question of how much John Wragge and this woman had seen of each other in the past.
Marian was too skilled, too completely mistress of herself to lose the slightest control.
“It’s only important as it concerns the future happiness of you three. As between Duncan and Mr. Wragge, there seems little to chose. They’re both very eligible—but different.”
“Would you call Duncan eligible now?” Lois was instantly alert.
“Even when a man informs you he’s disinherited?” There was a depth of sarcasm in this.
That told Marian exactly wha; she wanted to know. Duncan, she felt, must never marry this girl. Moat House weighed too heavily in the balance. It would never be Duncan—but what Duncan brought. John Wragge on the other hand would have no illusions. His eyes were too shrewd.
CHE was turning this over in her mind when the men ^ came back. Their appearance was very welcome, and good-bys were said almost at once. So far as she knew, Seymour had left no message for his son. She walked beside him without speaking till the lights of Moat House twinkled ahead. Then something put itself into words.
“Rodney, I hope that Duncan won’t marry Lois.”
Seymour started. He, too, was thinking about Duncan at that moment, and trying not very effectually to unlink the boy from Marian. Her remark made him the
more uncomfortable. Strange that she should wish this!
“Why?” he said jerkily.
“It wouldn’t do. They’re too different. I can tell that even from—” She was going to say from the little she had seen of Duncan—but that was dangerous ground.
Seymour also knew they were different, but this consciousness was submerged in a tumult that instantly rose within him—a tumult between love and fear—love that ought to be strong enough to surmount fear—and fear of discovering something that might displace love. A bigger man would have spoken out then and there— but he sidestepped.
“You think that Lois would not make him happy?” Strange to be talking thus to her about Duncan’s future!
“No—and I do so want him to be happy, and married —soon—to some understanding girl, not calculating or in any way hard, who will meet him halfway and give as much as she gets.”
She said this very earnestly, and there was no disguising the affection in her voice. Seymour hesitated an instant.
“You think she is more suitable for Wragge?”
“Yes, because I think his head leads his heart. He’s obviously restless and ambitious. Lois was much interested in him, I thought.”
Seymour nodded, and she sent him a glance that had a sort of timid wonder. She was longing to tell him everything, and to-night his mood seemed favorable. He had been more than good to her, more than generous and kind. But often when she least expected it the streak of narrow puritanism in him would reveal itself. It showed in the way he spoke of friends, men and women, in the magisterial coldness that came over his face when he mentioned anyone who had been touched by the breath of scandal. His mouth became cold, and his lips compressed. Scandal—or the faintest suspicion of it—was what he hated most—this man whose life had been cast in such pleasant lines that he never had a struggle or an ungratified wish.
“I hope, too, that Duncan will marry soon,” he said, with an odd inflection.
Something in his tone made her venture further.
“But, Rodney, can he?”
He swung his stick at a paperlike poppy on the roadside. “Yes, and I would be glad, very glad. And I would make it quite possible. I would like to think of the future, now—altogether the future. All Duncan has to say is that he has found the right girl—even if it is not Lois. You, too, my dear, you would also feel happier.”
This was the nearest he had ever got to any reference to the past. He wanted to guard her, had always wanted that. If Duncan were to marry, it would only be for love. The boy could not contemplate anything else. And this would mean that whatever he had felt for Marian was forever buried and obliterated. The honor of a Seymour could be depended on, there.
“Rodney.” Her voice was very low.
“Would you like me to write to Duncan and tell him that?”
He was greatly touched. Such a gentle and understanding soul! How graceful, how delicate and foreseeing it would be that a message like this should come from her! It was quite evident that she, too, did not want Duncan to come back alone, unattached, and singe himself again.
“It would be a wonderful thing for you to do, Marian —very human and generous. No woman could express herself in such a matter more admirably.”
Generous! She choked a little at that, thinking how much she had received by reason of Duncan, and how little given in return. Perhaps this was her way, though an oblique one. Of course, if he had been older, more experienced in life, less boyishly jealous of his father’s name, he would not have acted as he did that night after dinner. But he had inherited some of the paternal puritanism, and was shocked and frightened into making himself a sort of judge. Then his surprise had blossomed into anger with her, and suspicion. But, at the end, both of these were overcome by his innate gallantry and honesty. And had he not believed in her he would not have banished himself for his father’s sake—and hers. Had ever a son done more to protect his father’s happiness?
“I will be very glad to write,” she said. “How strange to send it by Lois.”
“Or Mr. Wragge.”
He pressed her arm affectionately. How happy he was in his wife! And how he hoped to be happy again in his son. Wife and son! But there it was again, that small black cloud, hanging so near the horizon. He tried not to see it, and began to talk about Wragge.
“You met about four or five years ago, you said.” “Yes.”
“Odd, that he should now come into our lives so intimately—I mean as regards Lois. I take it he is too busy and ambitious to have ever had a grand passion. He’s a little cold, it strikes me; yes, a little cold. But that often makes for business success. What do you think about him? Not much of the lover, eh?”
“One can hardly tell,” she said evasively.
“But good principles, I should say, and that counts for a lot nowadays. You know, my dear, I’m so often astonished when I see how laxly people of to-day—people of our own sort—regard the personal moral status. So different from what it used to be!”
She felt like suggesting that perhaps people were more kindly, more generous, less judicial of others, and perhaps not blind to their own shortcomings. But she dared not venture. And with every word he said, the possibilities of the moment dwindled. They vanished altogether when he went on thoughtfully, and with a world of appreciation in his manner.
“You know, Marian, that is what I reverence in you— yes—reverence is the right word. You are so foreign to anything of that kind. In spite of your—your beauty—I must say it—which must have exposed you to many unwelcome attentions, you have come though so splendidly. It makes you a sort of shining light—the thing that every decent man takes off his hat to. That, and so much more, you have brought into my life.”
She murmured something, but inaudibly.
IT WAS a difficult letter she wrote that night, being forced to exclude from it so much that was in her heart. If Duncan only cared for someone other than Lois! She intended to show the letter to Seymour, so it resolved itself into an affectionate message, very simple and straightforward, telling the boy that his father looked with happiness to welcoming him in Sussex just as soon as he had found the girl who could make him happy. In that welcome Marian would join with all her heart.
This was all she could say, and trusted to Duncan to realize that though the letter arrived with Lois, there was no mention of Lois in it. He could hardly fail to see how matters stood between her and John Wragge, but it was quite possible that Lois might, for a while, decide to have two strings to her bow. That was the more likely, because now she knew that Duncan could marry if he wished to.
Just at this point, the telephone rang, and Sarah Bannister’s voice was wafted down from Chelsea.
“That you, my dear?”
“Yes, and how are you?”
“Well, sleepy, and not very cheerful. I rather hoped to see you to-day.”
“We meant to come in for tea, but Rodney wanted to get back to the country, so we took the early train down.” “I don’t blame either of you, but don’t do it again. Are you alone—now—while you speak?”
“Yes. What is it?”
“Just a word about Duncan. Has Rodney heard from him?”
“Not yet—but I’m writing to him, now, as the result of a talk we had to-night, and sending it out by Mr. Wragge.” Miss Bannister sniffed. “You might tell Rodney it’s about time—or, no, don’t do that. But it’s how I feel about it. I heard from Duncan to-day. You know about the boy’s accident, of course—if it really was an accident—which I very much doubt.”
“Yes, and we’re so thankful it’s no worse. But why do you doubt it’s being an accident?”
“Can’t say, my dear, but I just do.
He’s put it that way to salve our feelings.
But, anyway, he’s nearly all right. Tell me exactly what is Rodney’s attitude now. I’ve a reason for asking, and I do wish he hadn’t quite such a righteous expression as I saw last week.”
Marian laughed. “Would it surprise
you to know that he really wants Duncan back very much, but won’t say so?”
“I’m much relieved to hear it—and there’s always been a lot that the Seymours won’t say, especially when they feel it very much.”
“I begin to see that. Well—Rodney is hoping that Duncan will marry.”
“Marry whom? Lois?” Miss Bannister’s tone lifted sharply. “Don’t tell
me he’s keen on that affair, still. It would never work, and I’m a fool not to have seen it myself long ago. I’ve an idea Duncan’s fallen in love in Canada, but doesn’t know it—as yet.”
“Who?” asked Marian excitedly.
“A girl out there, who’s been very nice and kind and, incidentally, seems to own about half Canada. I mean the mills are her property, and all that. Most of the letter I got to-day is about her, and her fine qualities and character—and—well—you know the sort of thing a boy writes in one of those soulful bursts that don’t occur later than, say, twenty-five.”
“But how splendid that would be!”
“Yes, if she isn’t quite the angel he describes. Anyway, what’s in your letter seems very opportune. I don’t know much about Canadians, myself, except that they’re said to be able to walk thirty or forty miles on snowshoes before breakfast.”
Marian laughed. “But do you really think there’s something in this?”
“If she likes dogs, and doggy things,' and nice doggy, ugly, honest men, I’m rather hopeful. I wish it were in my line of thought to give her a long distance mental treatment, but I understand that doesn’t work across salt water. Now about that letter of yours.”
“Yes. Any suggestions?”
“I’d send it by Lois, if I were you.”
“Well, my dear, I’ve concluded that girl is a bit of a cat. So she’d be wild to scratch it open and see what’s inside. I’m writing Duncan, too; naturally, I don’t know anything of your letter. Goodnight. I’m not a bit sleepy now, but much happier.”
JOHN WRAGGE used the seven day voyage to very ** good purpose. Then the Empress of France rounded the Isle of Orleans; and when Lois saw the flashing cascade of Montmorency, and, a few miles ahead, Quebec, that ancient Provencal city set at the Seagate of the new world, she admitted she had never imagined anything so beautiful. Wragge, who was at her elbow, pointed upstream.
“Just round that bend is Wolfe’s Cove, where he landed to storm the Citadel. Now we’ve three thousand miles more to the Pacific coast.”
She had become genuinely fond of him by this time. He stimulated her, and always had hiitfself well in hand. She had not definitely promised to marry him, but her attitude was such that the other first class passengers could come to but one conclusion. His ambition attracted her, and in it was a touch of ruthlessness that she found very reassuring. It promised practical results.
And, on the other side, he knew how to make love.
Also, he never overlooked anything that might add to her pleasure.
She felt all this even more convincingly when, a week
later, they watched the Rockies huddling their gigantic peaks along the Pacific. A little less than an hour, and they would be in Ocean Bay, having decided to go directly there, and sightsee on the way back. She leaned on the rail between her father and Wragge, watching the great funnel of the bay strike deep into the ragged coast.
The air was motionless and damp, the surface of the water like oil. They passed Kitimat Indians fishing for salmon from long dugout canoes with high carven prows like those of Grecian galleys. Then, at the far end of the funnel, and between steeply sloping shores, appeared an irregular greyish white blur, and she knew that there she would find Duncan. How removed was all this from the Sussex garden where they parted.
The thought of Marian’s letter had been constantly in her mind, for Marian had smiled mysteriously when she gave it, as though inviting her to guess what it was about. But Lois could not guess, and the thing lay in her portfolio, tantalizing in its clear delicate script. The possibility that perhaps it reinstated Duncan at home; and the knowledge that in this strange cardboard looking place she would soon have to make a very important decision, dominated her now. She glanced curiously at Wragge, who was staring intently ahead.
“Ocean Bay doesn’t look very—well—very finished, does it?”
He laughed. “As much as it ever will be, I fancy.”
“But what a place to live in!”
“For you or me, perhaps, yes; but there’s something impressive about it.”
“Yes, it’s big—and rough—and confident. Nothing else would suit here. To me it means something rather fine.”
She did not seem enthusiastic. “What sort of people will we meet here?”
“Can’t say—but there’s the girl who„owns the whole show.”
“It’s the Cartright estate, you said.”
“I know, but it seems she’s the estate. I only heard that half an hour ago. The captain told me. What’s the difference?”
“Do you mean this is all hers—the girl we’re going to meet?”
“Yes. I heard in Vancouver her father got hold of some of the best timber on the whole coast, and alto' gether there’s invested nearly a million pounds.”
Lois, feeling a little dazed, did not reply, and he turned his binoculars toward the dock, now not more than a mile distant. At one corner was a group of four people little from the crowd.
They showed clearly through the prism.
“I say, Lois, I see a girl—that will be Miss Cartright—another woman —a tall man—and a chap whose clothes were made within a hundred yards of Piccadilly. He’s got a bandaged head. Look for yourself.” Her fingers trembled a little, but she had no difficulty in recognizing Duncan. The girl, whom she examined with intense curiosity, was tall and straight, and wore a widebrimmed felt hat that shaded her face. The four were talking with
animation, and, apparently, laughing at something just said. Lois’ pulse beat more quickly, and she had an odd sensation that Duncan had become very much at home here. She saw the girl look at him quickly, put her hand on his arm as though with a question, and Duncan shook his head. At that, she felt somehow vexed. Nonsense to feel it, she admitted, but there it was.
The steamer drew in, narrowing the strip of water between her black side and the dock, till Duncan suddenly snatched off his hat, and waved it. He spoke to the girl, pointing, and she to the other woman. They both waved, and Lois could see them smiling. The tall man saluted. Then ropes were flung out, the steamer moored, and the four were the first to cross the gangplank. They all met at the foot of the companion stairs.
In the confusion of voices that followed, Lois was chiefly conscious of one thing. Duncan had made no motion as though to kiss her. He just gripped her hand so that it rather hurt, and presented her to the others, talking louder than usual for him, and with a spot of color in cheeks that seemed thin. Then he must have felt giddy, for Miss Cartright led him to a lounge, put him in a corner of it, and raised a warning finger.
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“You assured me five minutes ago that you were all right. Now stay there till you’re allowed up. He’s a very difficult patient, Miss Chester. Won’t you keep him in order?”
Lois, w'ondering a good deal, sat down. “Duncan, should you be up at all?” she asked anxiously.
“Yes, I’m all right now, thanks. Jove— how strange to see you here. Had a good passage?”
“Yes—splendid—but tell me about yourself.”
He looked at her, smiling; such a goodhumored, friendly smile that she knew in a flash his love for her had become a thing of yesterday. She was vividly conscious of this—and the tall girl who talked so pleasantly to her father and John Wragge.
“I’m practically all right again.” She heard Duncan’s voice. “How is father, and—and Marian?”
“They’re perfectly well.” It was on the tip of her tongue to say that she had a letter for him from Marian, when somV thing suggested it might be wiser to wait a little.
“That affair is going all right then?” “It seems to be a great success. Didn’t you expect it?”
He smiled reflectively. “I hoped it would. Jove, it all seems a long way from here!”
“Who has been looking after you?” Her eyes were resting on Sydney in a scrutiny that missed nothing.
“Miss Brooks and her niece. They’re frightfully kind, and I’ve been at the bungalow for weeks.” He wanted to say how wonderful Sydney had been, and how he hoped that she and Lois would be great friends but some saving instinct steered him away from that. Just then Berry herded them all out onto the dock and toward the winding plankwalk. He was talking to Wragge. Presently Wragge’s profile caught Duncan’s attention, and he regarded him curiously.
“I say, Lois, where did you meet that chap?”
“At the Eldridges, months ago, some time before you left.”
“Funny—but I seem to remember his face. I’ve seen him somewhere.”
“He knows lots of people in London, so I expect you have.”
“I don’t believe it was London,” he said vaguely, “but I’ll get it presently. What do you think of all this?”
“I don’t know yet. Tell me something about Miss Cartright.”
That left him rather dumb. “Well,” he began in rather halting tones, “you see she’s an awfully good sort, and—ah—keen on things up here—which is natural since it’s all hers—and she’ll be twenty-three on the twenty-third—and—”
“Do you think she’s pretty?”
“Dunno—that never occurred to me somehow. Does it matter?”
Lois laughed. “You haven’t changed a bit in spite of your—well—your varied experiences.”
He wanted to tell her that he had changed a great deal in the most important way of all, but just then she gave his arm a little squeeze that felt very affectionate, and depressed him accordingly.
“Don’t you love me any more, Duncan?”
He looked at her like a troubled Newfoundland dog. “Do you love me?”
“I asked first, and having traveled six thousand miles to see you ought to be enough for any doubter. Do you remember the last thing you said to me?”
“Er—no—what was it?”
She gave a tinkling laugh. “You said you’d expect to find me waiting there when you got back. But you see I couldn’t wait, and came to you. Now it’s your turn.”
He had a feeling that there was a good deal more to be said than this, and was floundering for an answer, when they caught up to the others who had reached the bungalow, and another glance at Wragge set memory moving afresh. Something in the line of that jaw was familiar. Then Berry began to explain things to his visitors, pointing out the different buildings, all the things that had grown up under his hands in the last two years of labor and stress. Miss Brooks and Sydney had joined Lois, the girl a little self-conscious at having her possessions thus enumerated.
“It’s all according to my father’s plan,” she put in rather apologetically. “He found the power and timber, bought that, then turned everything over to Mr. Berry.”
“And when does the mill start?” asked Chester, much impressed.
“In three days—on the day Ocean Bay celebrates with a big C.” said Berry. “And we’re glad you’ll be here to help.” “It’s Sydney’s birthday,” added Miss Brooks promptly, “so we’re all rather excited.”
SYDNEY turned a little pink, but said nothing, and Lois studied this young mistress of the wilderness. A bit proud, she thought, and shy, and frightfully honest, with a lovely smooth skin, quiet candid eyes, a mouth, sweet, strong and rather large. There was a sort of air of companionship about her, a thing hard to describe but very noticeable. Perhaps it was a Canadian attribute. She held herself very straight, looked quite fearless, hacf a supple graceful body and seemed entirely unconscious of her possessions. Lois wondered if she had enough imagination to realize them. She was not beautiful, but yet she attracted attention. Her manner suggested that she believed the world to be both beautiful and kind.
“You have been awfully good to Duncan,” said Lois, moving closer. “His letters said so little that we did not think the accident at all serious.”
“It might have been, but, really, we did nothing. Just at first we were very anxious.”
“And you never found out who the man was?”
“No, but we think it was a lumberman who left Ocean Bay while Dun—” she colored hotly—“while Mr. Seymour was still unconscious. It’s practically impossible to trace a man after he once gets away from here. You’ve never been in Canada before?”
Lois suppressed a smile. “No, and if I hadn’t insisted, father wouldn’t have brought me this time. The country rather takes my breath away. Do you know England?”
“Not as well as I’d like to.”
“Would you care to live there?” The question sounded very casual.
“I’d like to divide my time between Canada and England.”
Lois was aware that this was just what the girl could do if she desired it. Moat House, Ocean Bay, and the rest of the world as she chose it. Her husband would be a made man, while Wragge—though well on the way—had still to make himself. There came to her an uncomfortable picture of the impression that Sydney could make on that ambitious young man, if he took her fancy. Supposing that his ambition did take fire at the idea? She remembered an odd smile on his face when he told her that the Cartright estate was, in fact, Miss Cartright. So, whatever happened, it would be well to claim ownership of one of these men before it was too late. Ownership of which?
Berry carried off his male visitors on a tour of inspection. Wragge was intensely interested, and put rapid questions that his guide answered in a level, confident drawl. It was natural for Berry to be placid, especially on occasions like this, and he welcomed the questions because they were straight to the point.
He had made his offer—so many tons of newsprint at a given price per month— and what Wragge wanted to be sure of was that there would be no interruption of supply. From the look of things here, he admitted that this was very unlikely.
They came at last to the heart of it all, the great paper machine where Kyashi was making his final adjustments. He had had the giant in motion already, but was not quite satisfied, and Mackenzie was still in hospital. The Jap looked up at Berry, nodded to Duncan and took no notice of the others.
“By Jove,” said Wragge, “that’s a fine piece of work.”
“It ought to be.” Berry was proud of this mechanical triumph. “Money can’t buy a better.” He turned to Kyashi, whose face was as expressionless as ever. “You’ve had her running, I hear?”
“Yes, but some gearing was not just right. It will be by to-morrow.”
“I will make a test of some hours with the cylinders only.”
“Have you all the help you want?” Kyashi smiled faintly. “Yes—such as it is. To-morrow evening, I shall only need a man or two.” His glance shifted to Duncan. “You look much better, Seymour.”
“I am, thanks, but you must be used up.”
Wragge’s eyes rounded a little, and he caught a half whisper from Berry. “Both at Oxford, and the Jap’s the best man I’ve got.”
“I’m not used up yet,” said Kyashi, who had missed nothing.
“Better take a day’s fishing with me when this thing is off your hands.”
Kyashi nodded slowly. “When it’s off my hands I will take several days—if Mr. Berry agrees.”
Berry laughed. “I was just wondering how much of a bonus the company will offer you.”
The Jap gave an inscrutable smile. “I had not thought of a bonus.”
They walked on, Berry more enthusiastic about this Oriental than anything in Ocean Bay. Wragge was puzzled, but said nothing. The big machine spoke for itself. Then, Chester and Berry moving a little ahead, he found himself alone with Duncan.
“Odd,” he said, “that you and your old neighbours should meet out here. It’s a far cry from Sussex.”
Duncan smiled. “Yes, and to-day brings Sussex rather close. Berry tells me you’re going to take part of the mill output.”
“Probably. It will come round through the Panama. I saw your people not long ago. Your father is looking very fit, also his wife.”
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“I had only just met her before I came out here,” said Duncan, trying to speak casually.
“So Miss Chester told me. I understand the marriage is a great success, if I may say so. Will you stay out here?” Duncan was thinking hard. This man must have learned about himself and Lois—and yet he put that question. He took a glance at the clean cut profile, and again came the conviction that he had seen it before.
“Dunno, I’m sure. It’s odd that you and I have never met.”
“Do you think so? I’ve been digging rather deep the last two or three years, and wasn’t much in London. I was seedy for a while, too, and lost time over that. You’ve had rather a siege of it yourself.” He smiled companionably, liking the look in Duncan’s eyes. This was the man he had been afraid of as concerned Lois but the voyage to Quebec had done much to allay anxiety.
“I got a crack on the head—by mistake we think it was—and life has been a bed of roses ever since. But I’ll have to get to work soon. I say, I want to ask you something. Sure we never met before?”
“Quite certain, because it always struck me it was queer we didn’t. Lois used to speak of you, and—”
Duncan grinned at him. “Lois?”
“Yes. Any objection?”
“None whatever. Fact is, I’ve been wondering how well you knew each other. You see she and I were dragged up together in the country, but, Lord, you needn’t think about me if—that is—” He broke off rather red in the face. “I generally put my foot in it when I try to say anything graceful.”
Wragge understood perfectly, and was inwardly amused that Duncan should have thought it necessary to enlighten him. He knew Lois very well, indeed, by this time, and was assured that her capacities would be invaluable in making his career. But within the last few hours he had seen another girl, surprisingly new and different, with a fortune ready made, and waiting to be shared by some thrice lucky man. The possibilities here rather took his breath away. Then he became aware that Duncan was regarding him very attentively.
“I’ll get it presently,” he said, with a puzzled shake of his head. “Funny that —how you know you know, but can’t find it, then it comes when you’re not looking for it. I mean where I saw you last. Hadn’t we better get after the others— they’ve gone up to the dam?”
SYDNEY, with Sam’s speechless aid, had made room for everyone at the bungalow. She was intensely interested in her visitors, and a little proud to be the chatelaine of so vast a domain. It was odd to have Lois for a guest, because, by now, she knew far more about her than that young lady imagined. Duncan had unconsciously dropped a good deal of varied information since the day at Pacific Narrows, and the more he struggled to be loyal to one he did not love, the more did the one he actually loved, and who secretly loved in return, see into his heart. What she discovered there made her very happy.
Later that afternoon, when she found herself beside Lois in a big chair on the verandah, the situation appealed to her tremendously.
“Comfortable?” she asked.
“Quite, thanks, and rather thrilled. I’ve never seen a place like this before.” “Perhaps there are not any like it outside Canada.”
“I shouldn’t think so. When were you in England last?”
“About three years ago, just before my father died.”
“And do you come up here much?”
“As often as Mr. Berry wants me. The winters are very trying.”
“Miss Brooks told me you lived in Victoria.”
“Yes—and it’s rather more English than England. My father went there forty years ago and took up land.”
“You’ve been awfully kind to Duncan.” “But that was nothing. We were very anxious for two days, and I wanted Mr. Berry to cable to England. But he waited till the third day, and then it wasn’t necessary.”
“Then you knew about his people?” “No, and we should have had to go through his letters. He had not given us any English address—at that time. You see we’d just met.”
“He came straight here from Vancouver?”
“Yes, with Mr. Berry. I was in Victoria, then.”
“Of course,” said Lois reflectively, “he needn’t have come to Canada at all. It was just over a difference with his father, and Duncan lost his temper, and cleared out. You see,” she added, “his father had just married very unexpectedly, and Duncan didn’t like that.” Sydney’s expression did not change, nor her eyes, but, nevertheless, she was rejoicing, because she knew that what this girl said was not true. That was the secret she kept locked in her heart—what she knew, and how the knowledge came. And that was all apart from Lois.
“He never told me why he left home,” she said simply.
Lois leaned forward a little. The strangeness of her surroundings made her feel outspoken and a little reckless. She wanted to ask, directly, what Duncan had said to this girl about herself. But the oblique method was doubtless wiser.
“He rushed off one morning, the very morning after the new wife arrived, begged me to wait till he came back from his wanderings, said he was coming out here to shoot grizzlies—and left me gasping.”
Sydney smiled. It sounded so like Duncan.
“So, instead of waiting you decided to come out yourself?” she said smoothly.
Lois was not quite sure how to take that, then saw her opportunity.
“I had thought of coming when my father decided to make the journey with Mr. Wragge, but when we heard that Duncan had been hurt that settled it.” “Of course. Would you like to live in Canada?
An awkward question. Lois loathed the thought of living anywhere out of England. But what if this girl expected her to marry Duncan, and his future lay in Canada?
“I haven’t seen enough of it to know yet. I say—may I be awfully gauche— it’s only because I do want to know something that really I ought to know?”
“If it’s anything I can tell you, I will.” “Then have you the idea that I’m engaged to Duncan?”
Sydney resisted a frantic impulse to laugh. “He—he never said that to me.” “Because you see I’m not, though my coming out here might make one think so. Everything seems queer and out of shape at the moment.”
She paused, took out her cigarettes, offered them to Sydney, who declined, and began to smoke in an abrupt, businesslike fashion.
“And I’m not engaged to anyone— yet,” she added coolly.
Sydney wondered why it should be necessary to say this, then got a flicker of light. What Lois had really announced— though she did not realize it—was that she was holding herself free to choose the man who suited her best. Now Duncan did not want to be chosen, and as for Wragge—well—? Sydney’s lips curved into an irresistible smile. Suppose that Wragge should not be a candidate either?
“I think you’re very wise to go slowly,” she said, with a nod. “Of course, you must have seen so many more men than I have. But there are plenty of them in Canada—more than enough to go round. And did my. aunt tell you about tomorrow?”
“We thought it would be nice to take one of the tugs across Ocean Lake, and have lunch in the woods under the big trees. It’s quite different from anything you’d see out of Canada. Would you like that?”
Lois nodded. “Very much. And hasn’t Duncan some property near here? I’d like to see that, too, if I could.”
“Yes, we can go there in an hour, any day.” Sydney’s voice was hospitable, but she felt no inward enthusiasm. Both she and Duncan wanted to keep that corner of the wilderness to themselves. It meant so much now.
“What sort of a place is it? Like this?” “Just what this was before anything had been cut down.”
“Yes, just that.”
“Then it’s hardly worth going, is it?” “Perhaps not,” said Sydney thankfully. “I see the men coming up now. And supper will be ready in half an hour—you know we don’t dine late here.”
Lois nodded, smiled very graciously, and went to her room. It was the one Duncan had had, with the photo of Sydney over the mantel, and she sat staring at this for some time, deep in thought. She had got very little out of Sydney, and, perhaps, had said more than advisable herself. It struck her, now, very pointedly, that in proclaiming that there was no engagement to Duncan, she had extended the same freedom to him, which, at the moment, seemed a tactical error.
Simultaneously, she remembered the letter from Marian, still undelivered. Duncan should have had it before this. She took it out of her portfolio, pinched it curiously, as though trying to determine its contents, and decided that as matters stood perhaps it was as well to wait till morning. Delay was in no sense deception. The letter might mean, and probably did mean, reinstatement at home. Duncan, obviously, was expecting nothing of that sort. Why not let him remain disinherited a little longer?
And Sydney had given no sign that her heart had been reached. To Lois, this girl seemed an open book. How rich she was —how frightfully rich! Probably too rich to consider Duncan at all, seriously. But if she knew that Duncan was about to be taken back into the parental fold? Nono hurry about that letter!
BERRY looked very contented that night at the end of the table. Miss Brooks sat opposite, also contented, because Sam had excelled himself. There was spring salmon, just out of Ocean Bay, and wild fruit from the mountain slopes, while Sydney had had fresh cream sent up in a block of ice from Victoria. Chester’s eyes bulged when he saw the section of salmon.
“I say, you know, what did that fish weigh?”
“Fifty pounds—maybe sixty—nothing unusual,” answered Berry smiling. “I never touch ’em myself. Had salmon three times a day for three months when I got here first. That finished me.”
Lois looked up. “Duncan, what was your biggest in Norway?”
“Dunno—perhaps twenty-five pounds. They don’t run big there.”
Berry chuckled to himself, having a fair idea what it would cost to rent a river in Norway. And Duncan had never mentioned it.
“No hunting here, of course?” put in Chester.
“Grizzlies, if you want ’em.”
"But I mean hunting.” .
Berry’s chin sideslipped a fraction. “That’s what we mean when we go out after bear. You mean fox-hunting, don’t you?”
“Ah—yes—of course. Did you get your grizzly, Duncan?”
“I came nowhere near it. Mr. Berry showed me a couple from here through a telescope, and that’s as far as I got.”
“There were a couple camped here at the mouth of the river when Mr. Cartright and I came prospecting three years ago,” said Berry reminiscently. “We handed ’em the property, and stayed in the boat. I sort of like the beasts now— they’re so darned dignified.”
Everyone laughed, then Wragge, whose mind was more on newsprint than grizzlies, asked how it really felt to slave over a big job for years, and suddenly wake up and find it done, and, in a way, independent of the man who did it.
“Are you never sorry it’s over?” he concluded.
“Ah!” said Berry, his eyes half closed, “on the whole, yes. I guess the pursuit, if you call it that, is the best of it. After the thing is done you sort of like to say T did it’, but you know, just the same, that it might have been a good deal better. Something like life, maybe. You can’t see your mistakes till you’ve made ’em. I make lots.”
“Not in Ocean Bay,” smiled Sydney.
“I do, but I don’t advertise ’em. Now take that fellow Kyashi—he don’t make any. He works like fate, with the same kind of deliberation, and never has to do anything twice. I guess he has no feelings —or what we call feelings.”
“Has he no wife?” chirped Miss Brooks.
“Never heard of her. No—I guess not. Wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be something big in his own country. But sentiment is left out of him except for that machine. He worships it.”
Sydney’s eyes caught those of Duncan. Like herself, he knew that Kyashi worshipped something, but it was nothing mechanical that filled his soul when he made obeisance to the sunset in Pacific Narrows. What it was that drew his homage she did not know. But Duncan had an inkling. Too fantastic to contemplate, he thought.
“Do the Orientals ever marry white women out here?” asked Chester.
“I never heard of it, and she would lose caste at once. No—their ambition is to bring out their own wives, and settle down. This country doesn’t want that. The Californians are afraid of ’em too—I mean in the way of population—but Oriental labor made California the garden it is to-day. I’m sorry for ’em in a way, and the educated ones seem to feel they’re yellow. But, Lord, they’re proud!”
“They are excellent allies,” said Chester. “No one could have behaved better in 1914.”
“Maybe—I’m not disputing that, but it would suit a whole lot of perfectly good Americans if Japan and the old country weren’t allies.”
Chester could not agree there, and the talk went on.
“I suppose you’ll do a lot of business with Japan?” said Wragge.
Something in Duncan’s brain gave a flicker. Perhaps it was due to the angle Wragge’s profile made with the light, or the slope of his shoulders or the way he had of leaning forward a little when he spoke, but, whatever it was, it brought a premonitory thrill. Then, in a flash, there came back the Villa Solaro and Portofino Vetta.
The rest of the evening passed in a sort of dream from which Duncan was quite divorced. His own brain was too full. There was no possibility of mistake. He reconstructed the scene—the longing embrace with which this man drew Marian toward him, screened by the ilex covered villa wall—the glamor of that setting—later, in the ristorantc, his unmistakable manner—the low voice in which he spoke—Marian’s still lower and inaudible replies—the tenderness with which he took her arm when they Continued from page 71 went out under the stars and back to that palm-bordered terrace which was the abode of love. All this formed a living palpitating picture, utterly human, spontaneous and natural.
Continued on page 76
Against it, and against the only inference an intelligent adult could make, was Marian’s agonized appeal that poignant evening at Moat House, when she swore that self respect had been greater than love, and woman’s honor had triumphed over man’s desire.
From the remoteness that now encompassed him, Duncan explored the face of John Wragge. Ambition was here, and ability and confidence. He was a man’s man, and a man of the world. Could one conjure up a reason that would not make one sound ridiculous for asking Wragge to corroborate what Marian had sworn? The affair meant nothing to him now, and he was apparently in love with Lois. He would, therefore, conceal his amusement, and say that everything the lady had stated was the exact truth. Any man would do that if desired, and if he did not mind making a fool of himself in the eyes of his questioner. But this kind of confirmation would mean nothing to Duncan, he would have exposed his father unnecessarily, and Wragge would consider him a fool for digging uselessly into the past, and concerning himself with what did not, after all, lie at his door.
Whichever way one looked, there was small profit in opening the matter now.
All this passed through his brain while he was talking automatically with the others. Then Berry outlined the plans for the morrow. And, on the next day, all the wheels would go round.
“The twenty-third!” he said, with a smile at Sydney, of whom he was excessively fond.
She signalled back very happily, and went to her room a little later, thinking hard. There she was shortly found by Miss Brooks, whose face wore a rather concentrated expression. She sat on the bed, and began at once.
“Well, Sydney, what do you think of her?”
“I haven’t seen enough to think very
“Well, I have, and she’s not in love with our young friend any more than a seal out in the bay.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I’m not affected myself, and it’s as clear as daylight. She’s wondering a bit about you and Duncan, and in love with Mr. Wragge—as far as she can love anyone.”
“And then?” Sydney’s voice had a little shake in it.
“The rest is equally clear to a middleaged spinster of ordinary intelligence. You’re in love with Duncan yourself— he’s got it quite badly, too—you can’t say anything because you’re a girl—and he won’t because the minx has, in his mind, a first claim on his affections. Has he tried to make love to you? You need never speak to me again, but tell me that, anyway.”
“N-no—but it was rather wonderful,” said Sydney slowly.
“More wonderful than ever before?”
“Much, and so different.”
“Well, my dear, you’ll be twenty-three in about thirty-six hours; and,” she added with a catch in her breath, “youth is youth.”
Sydney curled up on the rug, and rested her head against a welcoming knee. A hand stole out, and lay tenderly on the thick brown hair.
I’m rather frightened,” she w’hispered. “Because it’s all—well—so real’” “Yes.”
Followed a silence, while to them both came the haunting conviction that hours like these were very nearly over.
“You know’, dear, I’ve never tried to influence—you didn’t seem to need that
but only to guide. You’ve alw’ays seen things so clearly yourself that you didn’t give me much to do. But in this matter 1 don’t intend even to guide, and rather feel it’s not my place. Y ou see I’ve known for the last two weeks.”
Sydney nodded. “If I wasn’t so rich,” she said, chaotically.
“Hm—I wouldn’t complain about that. You’ll have plenty to do with it, and no end of claims will be made on you. And it strikes me that Duncan—I suppose I might as well get used to calling him that —is by no means badly off. You’ve probably gathered that yourself by this time?” “He’s never made any reference to it— not the slightest.”
“I like him the better for it. There’s only one point, and, after all, perhaps it’s not important.”
Sydney looked up quickly. “What?” “Why did he leave home? Boys do that for all kinds of reasons, and often one can’t blame them. Did you gather anything from Miss Minx?”
“No, only what Duncan said himself— a difference with his father. But, Auntie
“You needn’t worry about that.”
“Why so sure?”
“Because—” the girl’s cheeks grew pink, and she turned her face away, “because it was perfectly splendid of him to do what he did.”
“What on earth are you talking about?” “Please—please don’t ask me anything about it now. You’ll hear it all, perhaps later, and if you don’t it won’t matter. Auntie, I know why he left home!”
Sydney turned, her eyes very bright and soft. “He’s a sort of Christopher, and carries a burden shouldered for the sake of some one else. He didn’t have to shoulder it. I learned that some time ago, and ever since I’ve felt about him as I have about no other man. And if he hadn’t done this perfectly splendid thing at great cost to himself, he’d never have come to Canada, and we wouldn’t have met. So it all makes me very happy, much happier than I can show—yet, and you’ll have to believe every word I’ve said, because its all true—true—true!”
And, at that, Sydney hid her face, for her eyes were brimming with tears, the distilled essence of the profoundest emotion she had ever felt.
MISS BROOKS did not understand at all, but she was wise, and, therefore, quite silent for a moment. She just patted the bent ljead, and prayed that this girl might find in her life’s companion one who was worthy of the sweet sincerity and courage of her nature. Sydney’s aunt neither under nor overestimated the weight of the Cartright fortune, and • she saw that it might either make many people contented, or a few people unhappy. The right instincts in such matters—that was the great thing to be desired in Sydney’s husband. And deep in her soul this tender-hearted woman believed in Duncan’s instincts. One either had them or had them not. They were not to be cultivated or acquired.
“Don’t you think it will be quite all right?” whispered the girl.
“Of course, my dear, why not?”
“And you’d feel about me just the same afterwards?”
“Child, why do you talk like that? How could I stop feeling, even if I wanted to? There’s only one other little, little point in my mind.”
“What?” Sydney looked very anxious. “Who is going to tell him? He won’t ask for himself—especially while Miss Minx is here.”
Sydney blushed violently. “I know. Isn’t it dreadful?”
“Of course,” went on her aunt in a slow reflective tone that was deliberately tantalizing, “it’s just possible I might be of assistance in an indirect sort of way—if you didn’t think I was interfering.”
“But—but how could you—and what would you say?” .
“I have not the faintest idea, but no doubt it’s being done all the time, in a thousand ways, and by very good people, too.”
Sydney looked very uncertain, then a grave light crept into her eyes.
“I’ve had a queer feeling about things for the last few days.”
“I’m sure you have, dear, millions of queer feelings.”
“I don’t mean that. It’s something much bigger that seems hanging over this. I’m in it, and Duncan, and Ocean Bay, too. It’s all hazy and indefinite, and can’t be explained, but it’s big and startling, and it rather dwarfs a love affair. Yec love comes out of it, and—” she lowered her voice, “death comes, too. It’s fate, Auntie.”
“Heavens, child, don’t let your imagination run away with you.”
Sydney shook her head. “I hope it’s only that, but I don’t think so.”
“You give me the shivers. What in the world could happen?”
The girl made a gesture, and stared out of the window. Fog had drifted in from the Pacific, as it so often did at nightfall, and Ocean Bay, with its human hive, its effort, its modern triumph, its massive buildings, lay somewhere below—and utterly invisible. In spite of her heart’s love, something of that fog had crept into her soul and brought with it a formless, breathless question for which there was as yet no answer. Something was hanging over her!
“I don’t know what can or cannot happen, but there it is.’
“Has it to do with the works, and do you want me to speak to Mr. Berry?”
“No, I’d have spoken myself. This is something out of his hands and everyone’s. It has to be.”
“I think, my dear,” said Miss Brooks, kissing her very energetically on both cheeks, “that you’d better get to sleep. Dream about the young man and forget these notions. You’ve had a bit too much of Ocean Bay in the last year or so for one of your age, and if I were you I’d consider where you’d like to go for your honeymoon.”
Sydney dabbed at her eyes. “Would you?” she asked hopefully.
“I certainly would. And the only thing that reconciles me to that nice Mr. Wragge marrying the minx is that he seems to know exactly what he wants. In other things his taste may be very good. Now I’m going to think about that little missionary job of mine. Its quite an agreeable change, as I’ve always had to push the men away in the past. Bless you, child.”
She went off after bestowing an impulsive embrace, and Sydney stood at the window, peering into the murky gulf beyond. It seemed forbidding—as though it shrouded unimaginable events. Then, with a quick throb in her breast, she realized that out of the fog of Ocean Bay had come the vision splendid.
ON THE evening of the next day there was an unaccustomed hush in the vast mill buildings. All through the long corridors a multitude of intricate tests had been successfully completed, and the place was dark and untenanted save one great hall where Kyashi, his sleeves rolled up, his face very quiet, was putting in a few last delicate touches on the big machine. This done, the whole thing would be a completed job, and the pride of Berry’s heart. The best work of his life was here.
For these final hours Kyashi had retained only two helpers, and asked not to be saddled with a, now, unnecessary staff. The helpers, it happened, were both Orientals, small, silent, very like himself, men who made no useless motions, and seemed to know exactly what was wanted of them. Now, there was apparently nothing more wanted, and they waited while Kyashi, master of this mechanical marvel, progressed from cylinder to cylinder, noting its operation with an eye that missed nothing. Then he pressed a button, the whole thing throbbed into magnificent life, and he stood a little apart, speaking no word. He touched the button again, and the dull roar smoothed itself out.
“It is well,” he said, in his own clicking tongue. “There is not anything better in America—or anywhere.”
The others nodded, watching him very closely.
“So that is finished,” he went on after a grim pause. “Now comes the rest of our work. Are you ready?”
They bowed, then stood at stiff attention. He might have been a superior officer. “Did Hitchen come back to-day?”
The larger of the two men shook his head. “Honorable, he is hiding in Vancouver. The others are here, those of whom you know.”
“Six, from outside. There are four more here in Ocean Bay.”
Kyashi looked at his wrist watch, purchased years ago on The High in Oxford.
“You told them at eight o’clock neither before nor after?”
“It was to be eight o’clock.”
“Then we have now five minutes.” His voice had become hard, with a dominant ring, and he spoke not like a master mechanic but a master of men.
“Your own arrangements are made?” The men bowed again.
It seemed that what was about to happen must have been very carefully rehearsed. The other two put no questions,, but stood motionless, their spare sinewy bodies rigidly alert under the electrics. They looked at Kyashi as though he were the arbiter of a destiny in which he allotted the parts they should play, and they asked nothing save the opportunity to play them. Utterly passionless, utterly controlled, they were his instruments for some mysterious purpose, and one could imagine that neither life—nor death— would shake their resolution. Kyashi scanned them as though they were on parade before going into action.
“You are content that this should happen?”
“It is your wish, lord, and we are content.”
“And if for any of us it is the end, you understand what must follow?”
“That is understood.”
“It is right, and an honorable thing, because one who passes thus cannot be defiled. If it be myself, you know what must be said in Nippon, and what left unsaid?”
“We know, master.”
“I think all ten will come to-night, for to carry out the plan completely, means labor. The work will all be done here, with no invasion of other parts of the mill?”
“There is no question, and to make sure we fastened many doors after the men left. Also there is one who waits inside the watchman’s post to lead the others here.”
“Has not yet returned from Ocean Lake with the others of whom you know.” Kyashi made a gesture, then signalled imperatively for silence. Moving swiftly, he turned off nearly all the electrics. Those he left glowing lit the vast room but imperfectly, so that the great machine cast confused, gigantic shadows on the bare cement floor.
“They come!” he whispered. “Forget nothing!”
A sound of feet in the empty distance, feet that came toward him in a quick shuffle down the machine-bordered aisles. Kyashi was leaning with apparent carelessness against the massive frame of his own handiwork, while the others stood nearer the door. Suddenly there appeared a group of men, breathing hard. Some carried bars and hammers.
The leader, a dark swarthy foreigner, held up his hand.
“Here we are, Kyashi. You’ve managed it damned well, too. Not a soul inside except us, is there?”
“No one. It is arranged as I told you it would be.”
“Well, I’ve fixed up the getaway for ten minutes from now. We’ve got the fastest launch north of Seattle. She’s in the dark below the sawmill.”
“That is well.” Kyashi’s voice had a curious inflection.
“And the Committee is going to do the right thing by you, too. Now what’s the most important part of this damned machine? I’ve got to laugh when I think of you sweating over it all for the sake of this.”
Kyashi moved forward, smoothly, like a cat, till he stood at the man’s left shoulder.
“You see that little toothed wheel— the one inside?”
“Yes, hurry up!”
“Well, that governs the whole speed control.” The tone was level and very crisp.
“We start here, then?”
The thing happened in a flash. Kyashi stepped back a trifle—his brown hands shot out—the swarthy man felt a grip of steel around his throat—two thumbs sank like metal rods into his flesh, inflicting agonizing pain, a bent knee drove furiously into his back below the shoulderblades. Then came the sharp crack of ruptured vertebrae, and he dropped, gurgling, his spinal column snapped like a pipestem.
One instant of sheer helpless amazement, and there followed a roar of astonished fury.
“We’re sold!” shouted someone. “Kill him—kill him!”
The rabble surged forward, and, as it surged, there darted toward it those two other figures waiting tensely in the shadow.
They closed thus, three against nine, the three skilled, cool and animated by deadly resolve, the nine mad with anger and the knowledge that they had been tricked at the last moment of all. No time to reason the thing out, or ask why the three had dared to fight thus, alone and unaided. No time for anything but fight. Should one of the three escape, it meant imprisonment, and perhaps worse, for these enemies of decent folk.
Kyashi fought like a leopard, lips lifted, his strong teeth gleaming, his breath coming in a low continuous hiss. Another rioter down, groaning, an arm wrenched from its socket. The two helpers were struggling against a desperate pack, but the greater weight fell on Kyashi. Once again with supreme agility he twisted himself free, and another man staggered, cursing and helpless, against the wall.
The fight went on, the odds slowly reducing, till it came to a battle of three against six. Little noise, save the panting of straining chests, curses and laboring grunts. An assailant snatched up a wrench, and laid open the head of a helper. Two now against five. Kyashi dropped on hands and knees, and rising with a leap, drove his head against the chin of the nearest man, and knocked him senseless with a broken jaw. At the same moment he flung a hammer through the nearest window, and reached the control button. The great machine stirred into life with a medley of revolving gears, a gigantic thing that seemed to exult in its force as compared to the struggles of these puny mortals. The remaining helper grasped his leader’s intention, and pushed a man against the huge iron frame. A thrust out elbow was caught, drawn swiftly inward, and there rose a shriek as flesh and blood were crushed to a wet pulp. And just at that moment Kyashi felt a hot searing pain as a viciously swung bar struck him behind the ear. He gave one great shout, spun round, and dropped.
The others saw him drop, and, vengeance being now complete, they turned and ran. No thought of wrecking the machine that had fought against them, but only of escape while it was still possible. With bloody faces and torn clothing they sped into the darkness.
“This way!” shouted one.
“No, this way!” called another. And the darkness answered them not.
The big machine roared on in the half light as though triumphing in its freedom. No human hand controlled it, and it had found a soul of its own. Out of mine and forge and workshop it had come, the ultimate emblem of man’s labor and genius, but to-night it was something not human, not mechanical, yet halfway between the two. On the floor beside it lay the bodies of those who had built and those who had attempted to destroy. And for both it seemed to have contempt. Its jaws were wet with human blood. Its gleaming cylinders, now naked and shining, would soon send forth that which would touch the lives and thoughts of millions. It was about to work in the interests of men.
Continued on page 80
Continued from page 78
But, to-night, for a space, this monster was of itself and by itself. It was a leviathan—a power—a god with arms of steel and fingers of brass—the heart of the Ocean Bay Mills, beating, proud and unconquered in this chamber of death.
To be Concluded