The Splendid Silence
And so, at last, Duncan Seymour learns the hidden meaning of Kyashi's ‘Tree of Beauty that hangs over a pool’
IT WAS very quiet and lovely on the foothills behind Camp Number One, and even Wragge’s practical brain yielded to the spell. They had dined under the great trees beside a camp fire where presided the best cook in the employ of the Cartright Estate. Now, the purple shades were stealing up the opposing mountain slopes toward those silent peaks where still lingered the pink flush of sunset.
Chester, who had fared as he never expected to, gave himself over to a luxurious cigar, and watched Wragge strolling off with Lois. The sight gave him a feeling of satisfaction, for, from the way things seemed to have gone here, that young man was forming an excellent connection with what undoubtedly would be a very important concern. So he smiled genially at Miss Brooks who had settled herself comfortably a few feet away.
“Well,” she asked, “what do you think of this country of ours?” “Splendid! I’m very glad I came. It’s quite an education. Where’s Mr. Berry?” “He went down to the camp half an hour ago to see one of the foremen.” “Capital man, that, I should say. Very valuable to your company.” She nodded. “I don’t know anyone like him. He took a great fancy to Mr. Seymour.” “Lucky for Seymour, eh?” It occurred to her that the luck was likely to be remarkable, and she wondered what Seymour would think, if he knew. “I had an idea that he might be engaged to your daughter,” .she hazarded. “Well—ah—as a matter of fact, there was some—er—
understanding of some sort, but it seems to have been— ah—very indefinite.” “Judging by appearances to-day, it was, very.” “Well, you see, Lois is a bit headstrong in such matters, and I have thought it better not to interfere. She is old enough to decide for herself.” “Sydney’s age, isn’t she?” “Just about. And what a dramatic birthday your niece will have. Quite spectacular from an English point of view.” He looked at his cigar rather critically. “I’m surprised that that young lady hasn’t surrendered before this. She must have been very much sought after.” “Indeed she has, but ...” here Miss Brooks’eyes took on a twinkle, “she’s headstrong in such matters, and I’ve never attempted to interfere.” They both laughed, and she went on with a glance. “You live next door to the Seymours, don’t you?” “The properties adjoin,” said Chester with a touch of dignity, “and that’s why it’s so odd finding Duncan out here. His father is one of my oldest friends, and lost his wife just before I had the same misfortune. But he married again a few months ago.” “He probably was very lonely.” “The curious part of it was that he didn’t seem lonely, and the marriage was quite sudden, to a lady we had not known before.” “Those situations are sometimes a little difficult all round,” she said tentatively.
“But not in this case, I think. A most charming woman, very good-looking, and the soul of tact. I can’t imagine him doing better for himself.” He paused, and looked at her with a little lift of his brows. “May I say that, perhaps, you have a mistaken idea about young Seymour?”
“Have I? My ideas about him are rather flattering.” “If you think he left home on account of this marriage, I’m sure you’re wrong. The boy has always been most considerate of his father, and must have seen for himself what an excellent arrangement this is.”
“Well, Mr. Chester, I believe in him—whatever it was.” She stopped for a moment with a little laugh. “In fact, being a middle-aged spinster, I’ve rather fallen in love with him myself.”
What Chester would have liked very much to know was whether anything of this nature was developing with Miss Brooks’ niece. “Of course the boy will go back, sooner or later, when Moat House comes to him.” “Then he will inherit the family property?” “I can’t imagine anything else.” “Now tell me something,” exploded Miss Brooks, “because I can’t understand your cold-blooded English ways. If his father’s property is coming to him, why doesn’t his father write?” “Hasn’t he?” Chester was quite started.
“I don’t know, but if he had, I’m sure Duncan would have been only too glad to tell us about it. The boy has %been here for three months, was nearly killed, and with the exception of a letter he got from his aunt, who, thank heaven! is something like me, he says, I don’t believe he’s had a line. That isn’t human, and he’s a dear
boy, and I don’t care what happened at home. He’s as proud as Punch in a perfectly charming way, and very modest, and though you say Mr. Seymour is your oldest friend, I don’t think much of him so far. Has he ~nt a heart?” This bit of righteous indignation made a difficult moment for Chester. “Really,” he stammered, “I don’t know any details. Lois doesn’t either.” Miss Brooks got up, shaking the pine needles from her skirt. “Well, of course, it’s none of my business, but I feel there’s a hideous mistake, somewhere—and it isn’t on Duncan’s side either.” She stood for a moment, looking down at the wrinkled surface of Ocean Lake.
“However,” she went on cryptically, “it won’t make any serious difference in the long run—if I can help it.” “Eh?” said Chester. “I mean there’s an excellent opening for him here in case he doesn t care to go back—and—and I hope he’ll take it. Here he is now.” SYDNEY and Duncan were walking slowly through the big timber. For the past half hour, they had been exploring higher up, and, it happened, just in the place where, weeks before, Hitchen had unburdened his revolutionary spirit. It was strange for Duncan to see her sitting where Hitchen had sat, and the contrast was very sharp. They had not talked much, for the hour seemed to impose silence, and it was after a long and eloquent pause that Sydney looked at him provocatively. “She doesn’t like me.” “Who?” “Your friend Miss Chester.” She dwelt a little on the word ‘friend.’ “Why on earth do you say that?” Sydney laughed. “It is not with any deep sorrow.” "But how do you know?” “That’s one of the things a girl can never explain to a man. I just know.” “I hope she doesn’t like me either.” Sydney hoped so, too, but it was a little soon to say so. Then she caught Duncan’s expression, and quickened her steps. His brain was rather turgid at the moment. There seemed to be but one thing to do, which was to ask Lois, directly, where he stood. He wondered if he could do this, but felt a little cheered because there had been nothing one could call proprietary in her manner since she arrived. He remembered, however, that she had never been like that. Perhaps she didn’t want him after all. “It’s a bit of a job,” he murmured half aloud. “What is?” “Er—something I was thinking of.” His face got rather red.
“If it’s so difficult, why don’t you do it at once, and get it over?” Her voice was very demure. “I will,” he blurted, “I’ll ask her to-night.” Sydney’s eyes rounded. “Ask who—what?” “Lois. I might as well say it out.” “You mean that—that you’re going to propose?” His jaw projected grimly. “Yes, I’m going to propose that she and I were rather mistaken in certain things we said to each other in England. Looking back at it, I seem to have said most of them.” “How terribly reckless of you!” “I feel a deal more reckless now,” he said. “You mean you’re actually going to talk like that to a girl who has been treasuring these things in her heart?” He looked at her hard, but her face betrayed only compassion for Lois. “You’re awfully considerate to some one whom you say doesn’t like you, and I can’t feel that anything I’ve said has been much of a treasure to her.” “But aren’t you very hard on—on the friend of your childhood?” He looked again, saw her lips begin to tremble, and, just as the lover in him was about to break out, she pointed through the trees. “Aunt and Mr. Chester seem to be getting on very well. What sort of a match do you think that would make?” He was about to reply in phrases that did not apply to Miss Brooks, whfin, that lady turned,, saw them and
beckoned. He could do nothing but go on, and when they reached Miss Brooks she pointed to Ocean Lake. A tug was racing across at high speed, a mound of foam at her hows, her arrow-headed wake spreading a mile on either side. She seemed to be bearing news of portent. “She’s in a tremendous hurry, Sydney. I wonder what it is.” “We can tell from here whether it’s for Mr. Berry. Yes—there he is waiting!” A tiny figure was discernible, standing at a corner of the dock. A diminutive arm signalled, the tug swerved, reduced speed and made a sweeping circle that brought her within three feet of the dock. The figure jumped,
landed on the timber deck, and the faint-borne throb of engines drifted up into the foothills. With a blare of whistle, the tug sped back toward Ocean Bay. “That was Berry,” said Duncan sharply. Miss Brooks nodded. “We’d better go down at once, and, gracious, it’s after half-past eight. There’s something wrong. Shout to the others, will you?” They reached the water after a quick, difficult walk, and found Hasken waiting. He came toward Sydney, fingering the rim of his hat. “Mr. Berry left a message for you, Miss. Said there’d been some trouble at the mill, and some of the hands were hurt. He is sending the tug back right away, and wants you not to come to the works. He’ll be up at the bungalow soon after you get there.” “Who was hurt?” “I didn’t rightly hear, but it seems there’s two Japs, anyway.” -, “Is one of them Kyashi?” barked Duncan. “I didn’t get any other message. It’s over now— whatever it was.” Duncan said nothing more, but somethipg whispered that it was Kyashi, and the riddle that had baffled him for months had come at last to its grim solution, What man could be in the confidence of reprobates #nd not pay for it? ■YDo “Oh, I hope it’s not Kyashi,” .said Sydney, under,her breath. u;,ín. U: ' tonm
“Was he that nice man who used to run the launch for a holiday?” asked her aunt. “Yes—and so polite. He spoke like a courtier, and was frightfully mysterious, at least to me. And he was at Oxford.” Duncan was silent. He knew nothing new, but had the conviction that he would know everything soon. It was a different journey, the one back to Ocean Bay. Wragge felt very curious, but gleaned little from the tug captain. There had been a row or riot of some kind in the mill, two or three men were killed, nothing was damaged —that is nothing not human, but it looked as though an attempt had been made to prevent the works from starting next day. Ocean Bay was full of talk, and Berry had made no statement as yet.
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Lois, when Wragge told her this, seemed rather frightened. She had taken a dislike to the place the moment she saw it, and found in it the suggestion of danger that lurked iust underneath the surface. What sn wanted was England, with its precedents and class distinctions and ordered ways And she wanted to get back to it as soon as she could. “When can we leave?” she asked. “In two or three days, if that suits. Why?” “I’ll be glad to leave.” “And Duncan?” he said evenly. The thought of life with Duncan in, possibly, Ocean Bay, made her shiver. But it was like Wragge to be practical and to the point, and she welcomed it the more now because it took her mind off other things. She smiled a little. “Ina, aoout Duncan?” The smile, he decided, was answer enough just now, but, having a naturally fair spirit, and liking Duncan very genuinely, he would be more content were the coast clear before this. However, that was Lois’ affair. And from all appearances Duncan would not be very heavily hit. At Ocean Bay the mill buildings were a blaze of light. No difference anywhere, save that knots of men had gathered near the main entrance, men who were talking hard, and turned to stare, especially at Sydney, who was walking between her aunt and Duncan. The latter recognized some of the local police on duty at the mill entrance. From one wing came a low rumble, and he knew that Kyashi’s pet was in action— which reassured him. Kyashi was probably in charge now. So to the bungalow, where Sam was more speechless than ever, and there ensued a long half-hour till Berry’s steps sounded outside. He came in, nodded, and, instead of stretching himself as usual in a big chair, stood by the fireplace with a look that was slightly embarrassed. “Nothing very serious, I hope?” ventured Miss Brooks.
“No—it might have been—but isn’t. Depends on what one calls serious. The mill is all right.” He glanced at Chester with a half smile that was rather eloquent, and the latter understood at once. “You want to talk business?” he said. “We’ll leave you.” “Well, yes, if you don’t mind. Much obliged. We’ll just go into the dining room—And, Seymour, I’d like you to come.” They went out, and across the hall. Lois looked at Duncan as he passed, but his eyes were fixed on Sydney, and she knew that whatever he might once have felt for herself was done with. Then, poised between relief and resentment, she remembered Marian’s letter. The dining-room door closed. Berry sat at one end of the table, his face grave. “It’s been a near thing,” he said gravely, “and the mill came mighty close to not starting to-morrow—or for months, either. We’ve got a Jap to thank for saving it.” “Kyashi?” Duncan’s voice was tense. Berry nodded. “I’ve only got bits of the story. There are three dead men—one of them a Jap, five in the hospital—two are Japs, and five in jail, none of them Japs. The, big machine is running ,like a watch, and Mackenzie has crqwJqd down to look after it. N 0 damage .anywhere. That’s the pre ent state of things.” Hg paused. ,,There were a thousand questions the others wanted to ask, but no one spoke. He began again, -very qlowfe^r.^ \
“All I’ve got is this. Kyashi and two helpers were at work a little after eight, when nine I.W.W.'men managed to get into the mill, and came straight for the big machine room. How they got in I don’t know, and won’t before the night-watchman gets his senses back! Anyway, these nine reached the Japs, and the trouble began. I guess the only thing that saved Kyashi and his friends was jiu jitsu—it seems that way from the look of the others—and even then it was barely enough. There was a fight —some fight too, by what I saw—and during it some one threw a wrench through the window. It fell on the road in front of a couple of police who were on patrol. They ran in, found the watchman, gathered up a few others and put for the paper making wing. I needn’t give details of what they struck, but the fight had evidently just finished. On the way they collected the five who are now in jail.”
He swung round, facing Duncan. “Now you’re wanted at the hospital as quick as you can get there. Kyashi hasn’t long to live, and has refused to talk to anyone but yourself. He wants you, and you’d better light out right away. We’ll be here when you get back. I wouldn’t fire questions at him. Just let him say what he likes; you’ll get more that way. Strikes me it isn’t so long since he was there visiting you.”
Duncan went down hill in a maze of wonder. No use trying to sort out the thoughts he had now. At the hospital, the head nurse who had cared for him so recently drew him into her office and closed the door.
“Mr. Berry has told you?”
“There is very little time left. Any ordinary man would have been dead before this, and it’s only his determination to see you that has kept him alive. He will speak to no one else, and asked for you the moment he became conscious. He’s refused any hypodermic in order to speak to you in his senses, and I cannot guess what he must be suffering. Come.”
Kyashi was on his back, his head a mass of bandages. The muscles of his cheeks had contracted, so that his mouth seemed to wear a ghastly grin. The yellowish brown of his face had given place to a parchment grey. The eyes were half closed, but the lids fluttered a little
when he saw Duncan. He made a gesture toward a chair and the nurse disappeared noiselessly. Duncan felt the lump in his throat, and sat down.
“I’m so sorry, Kyashi,” he said under his breath.
The little man gave a long, shuddering sigh.
“There is no time for sorrow, now.”
His voice was thin, high pitched, vibrant, with gaps and breaks that gave evidence of his struggle.
“I will be able to go back a little—but not far,” the strained tones went on, “to when you told me about Hitchen and the rest. You remember?”
“There was a deal that I could not tell you then, and there is no time now. To understand me, will you think of me not as an Oriental—a yellow man—but one like yourself—young—with, dreams like yours—hopes like yours, and the ambitions that come when the blood sings in the body. Oxford did that for me—made me feel like that, and—” he added bitterly, “Oxford did too much.” “Too much!”
“Yes, a world too much. For a while I forgot I was yellow. I worked, as all my people work. I learned constantly, forgetting nothing. I came here—and found I was yellow again. My blood has thousands of honorable years, but that was as nothing. You understand?” Duncan nodded, putting his hand gently on the slack arm.
“The garden, is it here? The one I gave you.”
It was in the nurse’s office, left there because she begged that for a while she might have the perfect thing to feast her tired eyes on. Duncan brought it now, placing it on the small table at the bedside, and the dying man surveyed it with an unfathomable gaze.
“Soon after I came here I saw a vision. It lived and breathed—and I worshipped it. I could say no word, nor make any offering, but to me it was as though all the centuries of beauty were in one adorable body. The vision was out of my reach, I whose fathers ruled provinces when the world was young. I knew it would always be out of my reach, but that made no difference. And if you doubt this, I tell you that those about to die do not lie.”
The pain ridden eyes closed for a moment, and Duncan thought the end had come. But strength, the indomitable strength of a race whose fortitude is immeasureable, conquered again—for a little while.
“When I was thus worshipping, the outcasts came to me, Hitchen and the rest of them, with leaders from Vancouver, unfolding plans of destruction. Because I was yellow, with no friends among the whites, they assumed that I hated your people. Many of my countrymen do, but it is a foolish hate.
“So I let these men talk, saying little myself, and soon I knew all. I might have gone to Berry, and told him, but the time was not come for that, nor did I know when it would come. So I learned more and more, and was called a safe man because no word passed my lips. And then you came.”
Kyashi tried to smile, but his tortured muscles refused to work. His eyes softened, and watching him, Duncan saw in them the stare of one who beholds what is only revealed to man at the very last. He seemed to behold the spirit that moves behind all life.
“Then you came, and the vision smiled on you. That smile went through my soul. But you were my friend, and she was a lovely tree that leans over calm water. So it was for me to wish you long life and success—for her sake. I did that in the way of my people. But what was I to do for her? It was my desire to make an offering, for the meanest may give, if it is honorably given. You went to the Narrows with her, and that day, when I was alone, knowledge was born in me of what must come about. It would be all my own offering, though I was free to accept the help of two whose forefathers had been servants of my forefathers for a thousand years. So, I saw that to defeat her enemies with my own body, not counting the cost, was all that was left to me.”
“But why couldn’t you—?”
The black eyes signalled silence, and Duncan’s voice died out. Time was too precious to be used by one not about to die.
“So it was arranged between me and the I.W.W. that to-night at a certain time I should meet them in the
most important part of the mill, and together we would carry out the plan. Preparing for this, they camped for some days not far from here, and last night hid with their launch under the sawmill dock. On my side, I wanted none but myself and my servants to face them. Berry trusted me. You listened when I told you strange things, and trusted me, also, though that must have been hard. Thus I planned it, my soul in obeisance before that I could not touch. It will come to you before long—you who have never served her.”
A strange noise set up in his chest, and his eyes rolled. He whispered something in his own tongue, and looked proudly at the man beside him. Life was slippingslipping, and he must have felt the first onslaught of dissolution, but not for a second did his courage waver.
“They came—more of them than I expected—and it happened as I foresaw. I put my breast between them and what they would destroy. I had prayed for forgetfulness, and knew I could win it thus. Had there been more on my side, I might have lived—to remember; so I fought as one who desired the end. Death was. better than remembrance. You—you will not tell her what I have said now. No shadow must darken the pool over which leans the tree of her beauty. I go now, but go like my lord, my father, and—and not alone.”
He breathed violently, and closed his eyes.
“To her I was yellow,” he whispered, turned away his face, and died.
DUNCAN sat, stricken, his brain in a whirl. It seemed that the lid of life had been lifted, and for the very first time he saw himself surrounded by myriads of men, all consumed with secret passions, furies and ambitions, all forming a great seething complex out of which anything might come at any time. This consciousness of the intense capability of others for profound emotion was something entirely new to him. So far he had thought only of himself in this way, had never pictured others as undergoing these supreme tests, and the swift knowledge of it now hit him between the eyes.
And Kyashi! He felt very humble when he gazed at this motionless figure that even now seemed hardly more impassive than in life. What fires must have burned in this quiet breast, what hunger consumed it, what suppressed revolt tortured this man, one of lineage and high honor in a far island kingdom—but a yellow man in Ocean Bay.
He was thus lost when the nurse touched him on the shoulder.
“I’m so glad you got here in time, but please don’t stay any longer. Mr. Berry has been telephoning. Are you quite all right?”
He nodded, got up slowly, stood for a moment staring at the miniature garden with its tree of beauty overhanging the quiet pool, and took a long, long breath.
“That was the bravest man I ever saw,” he said shakily, and went out.
Berry was pacing the verandah.
“Well—come in and tell me what you can.”
The thing had worked itself out in the ten minutes between hospital and bungalow, and Duncan had decided that there was but little he could say.
“Kyashi wanted to do the company a good turn on account of the way you’d treated him, and got hold of some information from the I.W.W. They thought that being a Jap he’d take their view of it.”
“Then why didn’t he tell me?”
“It seems he wanted to pull this off himself—that was his quixotic way of looking at it. He knew those chaps had fixed up for to-night, and reckoned that he and his two helpers were good enough for the job.
The I.W.W. came in a launch they left below the sawmill. It’s probably there now, if you got all of them.”
“The police have been searching the waterfront, and found it under one of the docks. Go on.”
“There’s not much more to say. He died about fifteen minutes ago, apparently quite content because he had honorably paid a debt. And that’s about all.”
Berry stroked his chin as though he were drawing it out to a point.
“No further information?”
“Just before he died, he said that his people here would take care of him—whatever that means.”
“All right. I know. Look here, why did he send for you—and alone? Anything to do with being at Oxford together?”
“No,” said Duncan bluntly, “it wasn’t Oxford. And, I say, I’ve told you all that affects the company, or the works. It sounds a bit bald, but that’s all there is.” “Meaning that you object to saying anything else?” “Yes.”
Berry put out his hand. “Darned if I don’t send for you myself when the time comes. Better have a drink, and turn in. You look ready for it.”
Duncan was shaken, and glad to go. In the hall, he encountered Lois, who looked at him with large and frightened eyes Ocean Bay weighed on her with its fogs and strange men and murders, but in the half-hour since Duncan had left the bungalow something had revealed herself to herself as never before. Now she had Marian’s letter in her hand.
“I should have given you this at once when I arrived, but—but I forgot. It’s from Marian.”
He took it, wondering greatly not only at her tone, but also that one could forget such a thing.
“You haven’t told me much about them,” he said. “Isn’t there anything except that they are well?”
“No—that’s all. Duncan, am I to ask no questions about what has happened here?”
“Mr. Berry will look after that.” He spoke stiffly, exhausted with feeling, and desiring greatly to read this —the first letter he had had from Moat House.
She waited, uncertain and nervous. “Duncan, there’s something I want to say—to-night.”
He looked at her keenly. “What is it, Lois?”
“A—a question—about something different.”
“Do you consider yourself engaged to me? One wouldn’t assume it from your attitude since I came, but it’s the time and what has happened that makes me speak out. I can’t play at things any longer.”
“Do you want me to be engaged to you?” His pulse had begun to riot, but his voice was level.
She shook her head, and met his eyes more honestly than in a long time.
“What’s the use? I can’t go on pretending, and I don’t want it. I’m not sure now that I ever did, really. Perhaps I had to come to Ocean Bay to find out. Do you think me shallow, and heartless, and a flirt?”
“I thought you cared,” he said, simply, “as I did.” “But do you care now? Think what you like of me, but tell me that.”
He sent her a slow weary smile. “No, Lois, not now. I’ll be honest, too, and it’s no good pretending. Besides—” “Besides what?”
“John Wragge is more your sort than I ever was. May I congratulate him?”
“Yes,” she said, under her breath, “and may I congratulate you?”
“I wish you could. Good-night,JLois.”
“I'm so sorrÿ, because I thought that—that—Goodnight, Duncan.”
He found his room, stared for a dubious moment at Marian’s letter, then tore it open with a sudden gesture. There could be only one thing in it, her thanks and remembrance, which could not in any way affect his present case. But the letter brought back Moat House, and pictures of so much that was dear and familiar. He would love to be on the terrace now, with Sydney, and the dogs, and the South Downs showing soft and rounded in the distance. But he was in no position to speak to Sydney or any other girl, and one might as well forget these useless and painful imaginings. Then, mechanically, he began to read.
In the next moment his heart gave one great leap.
Z"') CE AN BAY seemed to have forgotten the tragedy ^ next morning. The settlement was bathed in sun, flags were flying, except in the Oriental quarter, and the population thronged the wooden streets. Berry, who had not been to bed at all, wore a contented smile, and suppressed excitement was visible everywhere. But of all those who turned toward the great grey buildings, none was so light hearted as Duncan.
He had seen Sydney at breakfast, meeting her eyes at random moments, and tried desperately not to signal that he had news of great importance to tell her. If she discerned anything, she gave no sign. But she noticed a difference in Lois. The minx seemed softer, more human, and Wragge’s manner had a touch that was almost protective. One might assume that matters were understood between them.
As to Duncan, Sydney found it impossible to banish him from her thoughts, so she let him rest there, wondering much what had transpired between him and the dying Kyashi, that mysterious little man with the Oxford accent who had saved the mill at the price of his life. Were it not for that, this would be a very different birthday. Berry had told her this much, and no more. But birthday though it was, congratulations seemed out of place considering what had happened, and she was glad when they all started for the works. She wanted the thing over, and her eyes roved to the hospital, where the blinds were drawn down in one wing.
They entered the mills, passing through interminable corridors where the steady throb of power had commenced, and on to the long hall in which the biggest machine of all stood motionless, waiting the animating touch of a girl. All was bright and fresh here, with nothing to suggest the grim battle of only a few hours before. Mackenzie sat in a wooden backed chair, his face pale, but his eyes bright. He had nothing to do but watch. The paper makers, in clean overalls, were at their stations. At one end the huge vats were ready, charged with liquid pulp, milky stuff that was the product of fallen m.onarchs in the ravines of Ocean Lake. Sydney spoke to Mackenzie, glanced smiling at the others, then looked at Berry uncertainly.
“What would you like me to do?”
“There won’t be any speeches. But we all wish you every happiness, and will you please press that white button?”
She put out a finger, and pressed. Life woke in the vast machine. It flowed through its giant limbs, and set them to work. There came a gleam of revolving drums, a click of brass fingers, a dull steady roar, and, marvellously, a wide wet sheet lifted from the vats and began to move forward. It wound like a snake round the polished drums, while deft touches carried it from one to the other, becoming harder and dryer till at last it emerged a hundred feet from its starting point, white, clean .waiting only the impress of type to transform it to something that would pass from hand to hand thousands of miles away, carrying with it the tale of the doings of men.
They stood, all of them, quite silent, and in a way mesmerized, for speech was not needed here. The machine spoke for them. One saw the effort of humanity, its stress, its dream and its triumph. Duncan, his eyes fixed on Sydney, saw more than this—a small brown man with the soul of a stoic, making his last and most honorable offering to the girl who now stood where he had fought—that tree of beauty which his ardent spirit had beheld leaning over the unwrinkled pool. How far was all this
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from her mind, she who waited, her eyes full of wonder, a smile on her gentle lips. It was Berry who broke the spell. “Well, I guess that’s about all we have to show you. Think we can make the stuff you want, Mr. Wragge?” Wragge came to himself with a jerk. To him, also, this thing was very significant—the real beginning of his own success. He wanted more—more—wanted soon to have other such machines working for his syndicate. “I can’t imagine anything better. Congratulations!” Congratulations! Berry chuckled inaudibly, and supposed that covered it. The best that was in him had gone into Ocean Bay, and all it stood for. None but himself could ever know what it had cost. Others would come along and take the thing for granted. Well, he concluded philosophically, that was the way of the world. Perhaps the best way. “By Jove,” said Chester, greatly impressed, “it’s worth the journey to see this. Miss Cartright, I’m sure no one has ever had such a birthday present. I’d like to give a party for you—and I will just as soon as you come to England.” “I’ll be delighted—when I come.” “I hope it won’t be long.” Then they all shook hands with Mackenzie, who, in his north country way, had not said a word—which meant that he, too, was well content, and with the foremen who would have charge of paper making, a’-d, once outside the mills, they split up, Wragge going with Berry to talk business, Lois toward the bungalow with her father, leaving Duncan with Sydney and Miss Brooks. “I’m foi the hospital to enquire about those poor men,” announced the latter. “Don’t come, young man, you’ve had enough hospital.” She tramped off with a half-smile that neither of them caught, and Sydney, who was a little pale, glanced at Duncan. “What would you like to do? I feel a bit of reaction.” “Why not go up the old trail by Ocean Lake? There’s plenty of time.” It led them past the dam, past the tangle of half-submerged trees whose tops projected stiffly from the dark water, round a long point where green hemlock rose in colonnades from the brown earth, and to a little bay with a pebbly beach, across which ran, laughing, a stream from the foothills. They walked slowly to this point in the manner of those who anticipate the greatest hour of all. Sydney’s face was very wistful, and she sat, not daring to look up, her eyes fixed on the opposite shore. There were a thousand things she felt now, and they could all be expressed in three words. Duncan, watching her, pulled himself together. “What do you think of your birthday?” “It’s wonderful,” she said, “too wonderful. I hope father knows.” “I expect he does.” He was worshipping the curve of her neck with its soft tendrils of brown hair. “In a way, I had pictured some of it— but only a part.” “Tell me.” “What happened yesterday—and those others being here—I could not have dreamed of that. Now I’m trying to persuade Mr. Berry to go away for a month.” “He needs it What about you?” “Me?” “Are you going away?” “I—I expect so. We haven’t made any plans.” “Sydney!” “Yes?” “I want to tell you something.” “What is it?” She seemed half frightened, half happy. . “I heard from home last night. Lois
brought out the letter, and forgot to give it to me till then.” “Do people forget things like that?” “It doesn’t matter, now. It was from my stepmother.” She sent him an extraordinary glance. “Is it—is everything all right?” “More than all right. They want me to come home.” She drew a long uncertain breath. “Does your father say that?” “Yes. Will you come with me?” She put her hand to her breast to still its beating, but her eyes were like stars in the mist. Her lips trembled, but she did not speak. “Sydney!” She made a little gesture, not turning her head. “I love you, Sydney. I think I loved you when I saw you first. I have never ceased to love you, but I thought I was bound to Lois. I’m not. She’s going to marry Wragge. I don’t believe now that she ever considered herself bound to me. I have nothing, Sydney, compared to what—” She leaned swiftly forward and put her hand to his lips. He captured, and held it there. “Don’t—don’t say that. You have everything—all I want—more than I hoped to get.” “It’s nothing, you adorable one,” he said, shakily, his arms aching for her. “But you have, and I’ve known it for weeks. Oh, my dear, my dear, you cannot guess how I know, but when I found that out I did not ask for anything more.” He stared at her mystified. “Darling, what do you mean?” “Don’t move, Duncan. Promise me, and I’ll tell you.” “I promise, but not for long. I’m frightfully human.” “It was the day after you were hurt,” she began, trying to speak steadily, such was the look in his eyes, “and I came to the hospital, and you were still unconscious—and wandering. I sat there for a little while the nurse went out, and you began to talk—Marian—a lot about Marian—and your father—and—” “Sydney, I didn’t say—” “Please, dear, let me tell you. It was all very strange, but presently I was able to fit things together. You made Marian promise not to speak—because nothing would be served—and your father—you made it all clear about him—what you were doing to save his happiness—and his unjust blame of you—and the result. There was a lot more, and I saw it all, Moat House, and the dogs and horses, and what it cost you to go away. And you did it not really believing what Marian said. That came out, too.” “Did I go on like that?” he whispered, amazed. “Yes, and the nurse came back just as you finished. She could not understand anything, but I did, because I had begun to love you. And, dear, I was afraid you were going to die, and if you had I’d have gone straight to England and told them the truth. But now I’m so happy that —that—” He took her in his arms for the very first time, and held her close. “Sydney—Sydney—is it true?—do you love me?” “I think I truly loved you, and what you gtood for, that very day. Nothing else mattered—what you had or didn’t have. And I couldn’t tell anyone, but kept it all to myself, and then came the day at the Narrows, and I was more sure than ever. Will this show you that I love you?” She lifted her face to his. THAT was the way of it, and when Duncan came to himself he looked at her with a great wonder and devotion. “Is it really true?”
Her answer settled it, and there ensued a long silence, while reality with its beauty and promise enveloped them both. “I’m going to cable,” he said presently. “What will you say?”
“I’ll ruin myself if I attempt to say half of it. ‘Engaged to the most wonderful girl in the world, details later.’ Will that do? Of course they’ll know who it is.” “They won’t—and I’m not wonderful,” she laughed.
“The first untruth you ever uttered. Now we must tell the others.”
“I’ll burst if we don’t, and they’ll see it, anyway. Why are you so composed, and whom do we begin with?”
“I’m not composed, and do we begin with Aunt?”
“She deserves it if anyone does. Will she be surprised?”
“Great Heavens—why, when I’m so amazed?”
“Because—because she happens to know I was a little, just a little fond of you.” Sydney would have blushed were she not already very pink.
That occasioned another interruption, and she moved away—a fraction. “Duncan, please be sensible.”
“I’m tired of being sensible—but I’ll try. Any further orders, and why are you away off there?”
“I’m not away off, and will you tell Miss Chester and Mr. Wragge?”
“I’ll tell him.”
“She won’t need telling. We understand each other rather better than before. She wanted to congratulate me last night.”
“But how could she?”
“That’s what I told her—she couldn’t.
I hadn’t read the letter then.”
“Duncan, do you think she guessed what was in it?”
“I don’t know, and don’t care, and nothing matters except that I adore you. Why are you so distant so soon? Is this prophetic?”
She laughed at him. “We shall be late for dinner.”
“Ye gods! Who speaks of dinner?” “I’m a hostess,” she said reprovingly. “Come along.”
He came along, though there seemed to be a slight roaring in his ears, and, later, managed to get John Wragge by himself. Sydney, he noted, had disappeared with her aunt.
“I say, I’d like to congratulate you,” he began explosively.
Wragge colored. “You mean—?” “About Lois—she told me last night. I wish you both all kinds of luck. You look like a lucky chap anyway.”
Wragge did not answer with his usual readiness. He felt rather guilty about Duncan, and was astonished to have the matter taken in this fashion.
“That’s awfully decent of you,” he said, jerkily. “Matter of fact I had an idea I was poaching.”
“Oh, that’s all right.” Duncan spoke with a large free air. “I heard you two were dining one night before I left home. That made me sit up, and I felt rather squiffy, but it’s all done with now, and I’m sure Mr. Chester will cotton to you. You’ve bucked him up no end, already.” Wragge laughed, and they shook hands with a touch of formality.
“I wish I could say the same to you.” “You can if you like.”
“It’s quite in order, as I’m going to marry Miss Cartright.”
Wragge blinked at him. “Good Lord!” “Yes, something like that,” Duncan grinned amiably. “I can hardly believe it myself—but it’s true.”
“You’re in luck, too, then. A perfectly charming girl, and Lois will be delighted.” “Yes, she’s charming—and a bit more.
I thought you’d like to know. It’s odd coming all this way and finding that. Of course I haven’t deserved it.” He put his hands on Wragge’s shoulders. “I just
begin to see what a girl of the right sort can do for a man. How old are you?” “Thirty,” said Wragge. “Why?” “Funny you haven’t married before. Never been in love?” He felt very friendly and communicative, and this chap had cleared up the Lois affair.
Wragge looked at him strangely. “Only once, and perhaps that was more gratitude than love.”
“Can you get them mixed up?”
“I don’t know. I was ill—on the continent.” He hesitated an instant, and went on in lowered tones while he sent Duncan a curious smile. It was in his head that he owed it to someone to'say what he was going to say. Safe enough, now, for Duncan would never connect it with his father’s wife. No one knew it at all except himself and Marian.
“I was ill,” he repeated, “and quite alone in an isolated place. I had taken fever, and badly at that, and one day Mercy, in the form of a woman, came and nursed me.”
“Where was this?” Duncan’s voice creaked in spite of himself.
“In Italy, three years ago, behind Santa Margherita. That woman took her reputation in her hands, came to my villa, lived there nursing me, and saved my life. If it wasn’t for her I’d never have seen Lois. She stayed for nearly a month, an angel of tenderness if ever there was one, and quite aware of what would be said if the thing came out. But, thank God, it never did.”
“And you fell in love with her?” Duncan’s voice sounded strange to himself.
“Of course I did, madly. Any man would She was older than I but very lovely—she is still. I begged her to stay a deux—she wouldn’t marry me because she said she was too old for a boy—but she wasn’t that sort, and slipped away as suddenly as she came.”
“So nothing happened?” Duncan’s body felt rigid, but his heart was pounding.
“Nothing, except that I made a huge mistake. She went as she came—gentle— tender—beautiful, and I knew that an angel had ministered to me. I didn’t see her again for two years. She was married soon after that.”
“Yes, and to one of the most fortunate men in the world.” He gave Duncan a long steady stare. “I take off my hat to her when I think of her. So that’s that. I’ve only told you to show that I know what the right sort of woman can do for a man. I say, what’s the matter?” “Nothing. Perhaps I’m not quite fit yet, and it’s been a bit of a day all round. Good luck, Wragge, and—and thanks for telling me what you have.”
I_T E GOT away by himself, not wanting -*■ to see anybody. This new knowledge was a flash of light, revealing truth to which he had been blind, and utterly convincing. Wragge had spoken from his heart, never guessing the import of what he said. Duncan’s thoughts sped back till again he saw Marian, lovely and anguished, tell him facts that his selfrighteousness forbade him to accept. He had saved her, but not believed her. Since then she had had to play the part of a woman who was mistress of Moat House by his sufferance. She was grateful for his protection, but what must she think of his doubt? But one thing to do now. Get back to England as soon as possible.
Returning to the bungalow, divided between love and this supreme obligation, he encountered Miss Brooks.
“Well,” she said cheerfully, “Sydney has been talking about you.”
He kissed her, which she seemed to like, and put his arm into hers.
“Not angry with me, are you?”
“What would be the use—and I’m rather obliged. I’ll have a much easier time now. I suppose you realize you’ll have a^good deal to live up to?”
“I know, and it rather scares me.” “Keep on being scared, and you won’t
. do so badly. Have you children settled anything? When is this thing going to happen—and where?”
“Is there any reason it shouldn’t happen in England—and very soon?”
She looked at him dubiously, her brows wrinkling.
“I don’t know. It wouldn’t be usual, of course, but Sydney has no near relations in Victoria—and you have a father. Were you thinking of having it at Moat House?”
He nodded. “Everything is all right there now. Perhaps Sydney told you.”
“She did, and I’m glad your father has come to his senses. Tell him that, if you like, but not till he’s seen Sydney. Would his wife be willing?”
“I give you my word that she’d simply ! love it.”
“You seem to be very sure of yourself to-day.”
“Ocean Bay is a remarkable place,” he said, mysteriously.
“Well, I don’t see why that would not do. But Sydney and I would have to go to Paris first.” -
“Paris! Corking idea!” He grinned broadly. “I like Paris. When do we start?”
He was thinking about it late that night on the verandah after Sydney had gone to bed, his head full of dreams of the future, when far up on the opposite hillside, and above the Oriental quarter, he saw a flicker of yellow light. The spot was distant from any dwelling, and he was wondering whether a forest fire could commence there, when Berry came out of the house, a cigar between his teeth, and stood watching, saying nothing.
The blaze increased, lighting a patch of ground on which was no standing timber, and in the glow Duncan could see a circle of tiny figures standing quite motionless.
“Take this,” said Berry, and held out the binoculars.
Duncan focussed and stared. The spot was that at which he had gazed months before and watched the two grizzlies. No grizzlies now, but a funeral pyre where the small, silent men of an island kingdom were saying good-by to one of their own race.
“Kyashi!” he whispered under his breath.
It was Kyashi. The flame leaped, its ruddy tongues stabbing the darkness, while all that was left of a stoic dwindled and crumbled. As he came, he went, incommunicable, black eyes shrouded in mystery, the unshrinking heart of him wrapped in a hillside furnace. The reflection flickered on the window of the room where Sydney slept and dreamed of the man she loved, while down below the man himself felt the plaything of powers that rule the lives of mortals, powers wThose decision there is no gainsaying. How humble it made one!
The blaze mounted. The pyre wras visible in a glowing mass, then suddenly sank to a palpitating heap. Darkness closed in, engulfing the motionless circle, till through the obscurity there shone only a tiny red eye, like a match struck in the night. And then nothingness. Duncan pictured the small, stalwart men returning to the tiny houses balanced on stilts along the shores of Ocean Bay.
“Well,” said Berry thoughtfully, “that was the whitest yellow' man I ever met, but I wish I could have got him to talk a bit. Those fellow's never do.”
THE terrace in front of Moat House, with the September sun casting long shadows across the lawn. Seymour pacing up and down, glancing at his watch unnecessarily often. Marian in a big chair, her fingers in the silky ear of Duncan’s favorite spaniel. And all around that restful England of field, coppice, covert and hill, the scene of men’s efforts and hopes for so many a long year.
Seymour was inordinately happy, and rather wanted to dance. The past few months had done much for him. For one i thing he had got rid of those vague
disturbing doubts that for a while after Duncan’s departure seemed to hang at his elbow. Life with Marian had silenced them all. No room for doubt with a woman like that.
As to Duncan, his father felt that the cable settled everything—the cable worded as only he would word it. Then there were letters from Paris, including a charming one from Sydney. It made him want to see the girl very much. Lois had sent one to Miss Bannister that made that lady blink when she read of the Cartright Estate and what it meant, and Miss Bannister had passed it on to Marian, the two being now very close friends.
And Marian? She too had heard from Duncan. She had not showed it to her husband because it was a chaotic, characteristic thing in which the boy blamed himself bitterly. So little, she thought, to blame him for, and so much to thank him for that she both laughed and cried when she read it—full of youthful remorse, self-accusation and the inescapable throb of his own new joy. She was thinking of that letter when Seymour turned impatiently.
“I wonder what’s happened.” “Nothing, I think.” “They ought to be here by now.” “Perhaps the train is late.” “Most likely—it’s an abominable service.” She smiled, the service being really excellent “I can’t see why they didn’t want to be met,” he fumed. “I think he wanted Sydney to find us here. I can understand that. First impressions, you know.” Seymour lit a cigarette, and promptly threw it away. “What do you suppose she will think of the place? Rather small, I expect.” “No, and it isn’t small, and Duncan says she loves England.” “Think they’ll live over here?” “I hope so—for half the time anyway.” “Rooms all ready?” She smiled again. “Yes, dear, everything is ready.” “Those Americans, you know, they’re used to a bathroom to themselves.” “She won’t mind sharing one with her Aunt. And she’s Canadian, not American.” “What’s the difference—they’re all from the same country?” “She belongs to us—the Americans don’t.” “I almost think we belong to her, the way things are. Duncan didn’t take long about it after he got that letter of yours, did he?” She shook her head. “I don’t know when the letter reached him, but he didn’t lose any time.” “You never showed it to me, Marian.” “No, dear, I didn’t.”
He made a little coughing noise in his throat. “You shouldn’t have had to write it. I was all wrong that time, and wasn’t big enough to trust my own son. I saw it soon afterwards, but—”
“But it’s all over now,” she said softly, “and as things have turned out, Duncan will not complain. If it had not been for that evening he would never have found Sydney.”
He nodded. “I know, but that doesn’t justify me. Queer that good should have come out of it.”
Marian believed that good came out of all things if men’s hearts were clean and straight. She did not say this, but looked at her husband with deep affection. She had learned to know him well now, realizing his devotion, his gentleness, his constant care of her, and the touching and unconscious way in which more and more he depended on her. She loved this dependence, delighting in it as another woman would delight in the clinging arms of a child.
“I know what will please Duncan as much as anything,” she said. “What?” “The car—and Manders.”
“I hope so. Renwick was very nice about the car. He let me have it at once for what he paid, less something he insisted on taking off for wear and tear. Manders was equally pleased. I found him at Duncan’s club. He has the car at the station now, and—”
A sleek lean two seater tore into the drive with a bellowing hern. Seymour darted down the steps, Marian close behind. Duncan jumped over the driver’s door, and gave his hand to a tall, slim girl who had very bright eyes and looked a little terrified.
“Here we are, father! Marian, this is Sydney—the others are somewhere behind.” He gestured vaguely in the direction of London. “By Jove, sir, you look well. How are you, Marian?”
Seymour gripped the outstretched hand, and looked into those honest eyes. He was back again—this Duncan whom he had always loved—even when he doubted. Thus for an instant, while all that was dear and tender built itself up again, and the past dwindled, faded and vanished. Oh, thank God—thank God! Then he turned to Sydney, and kissed her.
“My dear,” he said, very gently, “a thousand welcomes to Moat House.” Followed an instant of silence, while they looked at each other and things that are impossible to be said moved in their minds. Another horn sounded, and Seymour’s car drove up at a more moderate pace. Miss Brooks got out, attended by Manders.
“Mrs. Seymour,” she said, “I’m very glad to be here, and equally glad that Sydney has not broken her neck. Does everyone drive like that in England?” “Yes, when they get back from Ocean Bay,” laughed Duncan. He looked hard at his father. “That car, sir, where did it come from?”
“I—er—I picked it up very reasonably a day or two ago.”
Duncan choked a little. “And this old rascal?” He pointed brazenly to Manders.
“I found him in your club. He seemed to expect you about now. Eh, Manders, that’s what you said, isn’t it?”
“I did take that liberty, sir.”
Duncan drew a long breath. Home— Sydney—Moat House—Manders—the
car! He bit his lip, and stooped over the dogs rioting at his knees.
“I don’t know how to thank you, sir,” he said huskily.
“It’s nothing—nothing at all.” Seymour, equally moved, was just as anxious to avoid anything approaching a scene. “I thought it would be nice to have things back as they were. Did you get that grizzly?”
“No, sir. I got Sydney instead.”
“I congratulate you on the change.” They looked at each other and smiled. Marian saw, and understood.
“Miss Brooks, let me show you and Sydney your rooms—then tea will be ready. The luggage is coming in the car.” They went up. Seymour pushed his arm into his son’s, and struck off across the lawn toward the stables. So much to be said, he felt, that one could hardly begin.
“Is Wragge with you?” As far as London, only. He’s coming to the Chesters for the week-end.” “Are they to be married soon?” “I think so.” “A double wedding?” “No, sir, we’d rather not.” “I quite agree. She’s a dear girl, Duncan. Did you fall in love with her at once?” “Not quite, sir. I waited a week or t vo.” Seymour laughed, and pressed his arm. “There’s a good deal ahead of you in life from what I hear.” “I’ll do the best I can, sir.” A pause. “I’m sorry for what I said, Duncan.” “When, sir?” “That night.” The boy took a long deep breath. “I’m sorry too—for my end of it. And it need-
not have happened at all. I know that now.”
“Just what do you mean?” asked his father strangely.
“It’s this. I was wrong, you were wrong, sir, and only Marian was right. If you don’t mind, I’d sooner let it go at that. I know now. I didn’t know then. Is my word good for it?”
“I want nothing better, Duncan.” Another pause, very satisfying and eloquent, while their shoulders touched, and exchanged mute communications. Then they turned back toward Moat House, with its long windows glinting in the sun.
TN HIS room, the old one to which he went automatically, he found Manders, calm and occupied. To look at him one would assume that he had just arrived from the flat with his master’s clothes. “Well, Manders, how are you?”
“In my usual health, sir, thank you. I needn’t enquire about you.”
“I’m pretty fit. Been at the club, I hear?”
“Yes, sir, I took a temporary position, but don’t care for club life. There’s no privacy.”
“But couldn’t you havejgone to Mr. Renwick?”
“Yes, sir, he offered me the place.” “Then why not?”
Manders held up a coat, and examined it dubiously. “Your things are in a shocking condition, sir.”
“Yes, I looked after them myself. Why not Mr. Renwick?”
Manders put down the coat. “It’s this way, sir. You told me you had had a row with Mr. Seymour, and from the way you spoke you seemed to think it was— well—permanent. But my experience is that, nowadays, gentlemen have rows with their fathers quite often, and it’s hardly ever permanent. So I did not feel myself at liberty to avail myself of Mr. Renwick’s offer, and then leave him, perhaps, as soon as he got used to me.”
“Manders, I always said you were a remarkable man. You know that, don’t you?”
“Thank you, sir, I do remember something of the sort, but I’m afraid I can’t have your things in proper shape for dinner. They smell rather salty, if I may
They were ready, however, though not to Manders’ satisfaction. Duncan forgot that and all else when he looked at Sydney, delighting in the effect she was producing. Miss Brooks was rather quiet, and he suspected that she was busily absorbing her first impressions of an English home. Between Marian and Sydney there seemed to be already a charming understanding. What a wonderful world this was. Then Miss Brooks looked round with an odd little smile.
“This seems a different planet from Ocean Bay.”
Duncan laughed. “But the same people are in it.”
“I’m glad you weren’t there, Mr. Seymour, about three months ago. This young man rather frightened us.”
He nodded gravely. “We had no idea it was so serious. Duncan tells me the nursing was excellent. You have a capital hospital?”
“Yes, it’s all right, but lately it’s been a bit too popular to suit me. That’s one reason I’m very glad to be in England for a while—like this. We only saw the country from hotels before.”
“You’re no more glad than we are.” He raised his glass. “Sydney, my dear, welcome home, and you Miss Brooks, and you my son!”
Duncan got rather red in the face. “And here’s to you, sir, and Marian, and, and—” he floundered gallantly till something flickered into his brain, “and to a tree of beauty that leans over a pool.” Seymour smiled. “A tree of beauty?” “It’s an Oriental expression sir. I picked it up in British Columbia. This time it stands for ‘Sydney’.