FICTION

AVALANCHE

ROBERT E. PINKERTON February 1 1933
FICTION

AVALANCHE

ROBERT E. PINKERTON February 1 1933

AVALANCHE

Strong men clash, and a girl learns something new about human nature

ROBERT E. PINKERTON

The Story: Taylor Hughes, self-made lumber magnate, is cruising along the British Columbia coast with Star Kingsley and Mrs. Kingsley and Marion Bruce, when he abruptly proposes to Marion, saying that he organized the yachting party in order to get an opportunity to study her. He takes her acceptance for granted; thinks he is doing her a favor. Marion puts him off.

The yacht is anchored in Secret Inlet and she meets a handlogger, Eric Ware, who makes a favorable impression upon her because of his education and refinement, which is far superior to that of Taylor Hughes. Despite her host’s objection, she spends a day with Ware, watching him perform the astonishing feat of felling and floating a giant tree, singlehanded.

Unfortunately, the log rams the Hughes yacht.

ERIC WARE led the way swiftly. Sometimes, in his anxiety, he was many yards ahead of Marion, but they were together when they found Keegan past the edge of the cliff.

The deckhand lay on his back. His face still dripped moisture and was drawn by fatigue. He arose stiffly and looked at Eric.

“Hit her?”

“The log jammed a hole in her stem and as far as I can

is see is stuck there,” Eric answered.

“I tried to stop you,” Keegan said. “I busted a lung. Got this far when I heard her coming. Why don’t you handloggers rig elevators on these mountains? My heart’s pounded my ribs sore. Think the Faraway will sink?”

“I warned the owner last night,” Eric exclaimed angrily. “Told him the eddy would drag him off that ledge. And he said he would tear down his engine.”

Keegan looked at his hands, blackened by grease and carbon.

“Yeah, I told him, too. There’s good holding ground at the head of the inlet. And he wouldn’t even stay on deck to watch. Was off with his guests. The engineer and I was making so much noise we didn’t feel the hook slip. Some day I’d like to work for a sailor.”

The three went on, tumbling down the slope, leaping recklessly from rocks and fallen timber, plunging through salai and devil’s-club. Eric led the way to his own boat, and they rowed out of the cove in which it had been moored.

The Faraway was drifting up the inlet on the last of the flood. The great cedar log was still stuck in the stem, its top beneath the surface.

“That’s spearin’ ’em,” Keegan commented. “I’d hate to have you aim a tree at me, feller.”

Eric did not speak. His face was grim as he strained against the oars.

“I heard you warn Taylor,” Marion said. “So did the Kingsleys.”

His eyes smiled at her.

“I'll need that,” he said. “It was wholly his fault. But he has money and can make things nasty. And with Jeff Thatcher in the hospital and those notes coming due—”

“You mean Jeff Thatcher might lose this timber?” the girl demanded.

“Any logging company would be glad to own such limits. They’d put in high leads and destroy everything within two thousand feet of the salt chuck. Jeff’s slaved for years to prevent that. And he’s in a hospital, with one leg.”

Eric rowed on. They could recognize people on the yacht, and hear Taylor Hughes shouting orders.

“It’s great never to be wrong,” Keegan said.

The engineer was getting into a dinghy. Eric Ware rowed to the Faraway’s stem.

“I warned you this might happen!” Taylor Hughes shouted furiously. “You might have killed us.” Eric did not answer or look up. He pulled back on the oars, swung his boat in beneath the counter.

“Feller, that’s shootin’!” Keegan gasped.

They could see perfectly in the clear water. When the great cedar had struck, far up on the mountainside, it had snapped off its top. A long, jagged sliver remained, and this, as the log lunged and dived in the sea, had been thrust between the yacht’s wheel and the rudder post, had been wedged in tightly.

Eric was conscious of a vast relief. The Faraway was not vitally injured. Then he peered closer. The wheel might have been struck first, the shaft sprung or a blade bent. He looked at the heavy stern post and the bolted end of the bearing, and could not find cracked paint that would indicate pressure. This was merely superficial, but it spoke well for a miraculous escape from serious damage.

“If you ask me.” Keegan said, “you timed it to a split second and a hundredth of an inch. Even the rudder post isn’t sprung.”

“May be,” Eric answered shortly, and he pulled his boat away. He rowed around, to the accommodation steps, helped Marion out and followed her to the deck.

T-TUGHES met them there, without a glance at Marion.

“I’ll have damages for this!” the owner shouted. “I’m going to teach you handloggers a lesson if I have to break you. You should keep a man on shore to warn boats that may be passing.”

“Supposing I had a man there,” Eric said calmly. “What difference would it have made in this case?”

Ed Gill, the Faraway’s engineer, came on deck then. Eric turned to him.

“Did you hear me call ‘timber?’ ”

“I certainly did,” Gill grinned. “I’d been waiting for it.” “That will do, chief,” Taylor Hughes commanded. “Ill do all the talking that’s necessary aboard this craft.”

“All right,” Eric said. “Then why didn’t you get out of the way when you heard my warning? Why did you come beneath this cliff when you were well aware I was working above it and would run a tree this afternoon?”

“I am in command of my own craft,” Hughes retorted. “Who warned you last night that your anchorage was unsafe? Who repeated that warning today, and advised you to go to the head before you pulled the pistons? Why did you send a man ashore to tell me not to run a stick because you were drifting helplessly down here and might be hit? And, if you are in command of this craft, why did you run off and leave it when it was in danger?”

Eric drove the questions home as he was accustomed to drive in his axe blade, up to the eye. Marion watched him with unreserved admiration. She understood this was wholly an effort to protect the idealism of an old lumberjack who lay in a Vancouver hospital.

Taylor Hughes knew he had been forced from the dominant position and his gaze wavered, swung toward Marion, and caught her expression.

“You haven’t a leg to stand on. Hughes,” Eric said.

He was still intent on his purpose. He wanted to beat this man down quickly and save Jeff Thatcher from trouble, expense and possible ruin. Hughes’ obstinacy and pride had caused the accident, and Eric wanted an admission.

“Your crew, and even your guests, know you are in the wrong,” he said. “What are you going to do about it?”

“In the wrong, am I?” the yachtsman snarled. “I am not letting any shiftless handlogger tell me that. When I’m through with you. you’ll be on the ‘Skidway’ in Vancouver begging for a hand-out.”

He wheeled away, and found himself confronting Marion Bruce.

“Taylor Hughes!” she cried furiously. “You are contemptible! You were warned last night. Keegan warned you today. It is wholly your own fault that this happened, and you should be man enough to admit it. And Eric isn’t working as you think. It is magnificent, the purpose that brought him here, and-—”

“Eric!” Hughes interrupted, and his face went white with anger. “It’s ‘Eric,’ is it? And he’s magnificent, is he? I’ll show you how magnificent he is.”

He wheeled back upon the handlogger.

“Get off the Faraway!” he commanded. “Get off and stay away from here.”

Eric did not move. For a long moment he looked at Taylor Hughes. This was not being settled as he had wished. And then his gaze wandered to the great cedar log lying in the sea. It interested him for a longer moment, and suddenly he turned and went down the steps and into his boat.

He did not depart but rowed to the stern, examined the huge sliver wedged between wheel and rudder post, paddled along the log and measured the depth over it with an oar. At last he turned and rowed homeward.

The flood tide had ceased and the Faraway no longer drifted toward the head of the inlet. Keegan saw, and said nothing.

“Now how are we going to get the log out?” Ed Gill asked Taylor Hughes. “He might have had some gear we could use.” “We’ll do it,” the owner snapped.

“And we’ve got to get anchored,” Gill insisted. “If the tide takes us out through the entrance with that stick fast to us, we’re due for trouble.”

“Keegan, get the tender up to the bow,” Hughes said. “See that the gas tank is full for towing.”

Keegan obeyed, with a wink for the engineer. In a few minutes he had started to tug at the Faraway and its huge encumbrance. He sat immobile in the tender, but his eyes glistened when he lined up two trees on shore and saw that he was not gaining.

FIFTEEN MINUTES later Eric Ware returned in a scarred old gas boat that made a fearful noise as its exhaust whanged against the cliffs and filled the inlet with thunderous echoes. He did not look at the yacht or its people but ran up to the log, thrust a pick pole into it beneath the surface and made fast. Then he took a long saw and began to cut off the log twenty feet from the yacht.

Taylor Hughes watched from a wheelhouse window. Marion Bruce came on deck, after having bathed and changed her clothes, and joined Star and Polly Kingsley in the deck house. “Poor Taylor,” Polly said. “The Faraway is such a beautiful boat, too. He must be nearly distracted.” “Taylor has no one except himself to blame,” Marion said. “You are completely demented, Marion. And that handlogger was positively filthy. Did you see him. Star? That shirt! And his face! What do you suppose he is doing out there now?” Marion did not comment. She was watching Eric. His wide shoulders swayed to the movement of the saw. They had been swaying all day, and now he worked with fresh vigor.

“I hope Taylor doesn’t lose his boat,” Star Kingsley said. “It cost him enough.”

“And he is so proud of it,” Polly added.

Marion watched Eric. Taylor Hughes stepped from the wheelhouse and looked aft. His face was expressionless.

“What is that fellow doing?” Star Kingsley asked.

“He is taking the log out.” Hughes answered. “He knows he can’t bluff me. Trying to get off easy.”

The clang of wrenches came from the engine room, where Ed Gill was striving desperately to put the big Diesel motor together. The tender’s tiny wheel was cutting a hole in the water, a herring tugging at a whale. Eric continued to saw without pause.

“It is a terrible thing to happen, Taylor,” Polly Kingsley said. “Such a lovely boat. I hope you put that man in his place. Did you see his clothes? Positively disgusting.”

Marion did not look away from the sawyer.

“I’ll take care of him,” Hughes said. “These fellows can’t run over decent people who are attending to their own business. I’ll break him. I have connections in Vancouver. I can pull certain wires. He’ll be on the ‘Skidway’ soon.”

“Taylor, you don’t understand this,” Marion said.

“ I understand enough to know that you have chosen between that handlogger and me,” Hughes retorted coldly.

“If that were true, it still has nothing to do with the question. Eric Ware has—”

“I don’t care to hear about him!” Hughes interrupted with startling passion. “If he doesn’t get that log out, I’ll smash him so fiat he’ll never fall another cedar.”

He walked back to the wheelhouse. Marion hung over the rail, watching Eric. The log being under water, she could not see how much he had sawed. He worked as if he were alone in the inlet. Not once did he glance at the Faraway.

Keegan continued to tug at the yacht with the little tender. Now that the tide had turned, he was losing. He knew this, and sat at the wheel as if he were making twenty knots.

Eric Ware finished bucking the top of the cedar. The great log rose to the surface its entire length, floated high. Eric released the pick pole, caught the log and drew his boat alongside it, drove in a dog and bent a line.

Taylor Hughes was on deck now, watching. The Faraway would drift helplessly toward the entrance when the ebb picked up, and all the anchor cable in the yacht would not reach bottom in the centre of Secret Inlet.

But Hughes was confident.

“That handlogger knows he can’t take chances with me,” the yachtsman said to Star Kingsley. "He knows I can break him. He’ll give us a tow now, help reach a safe place. Then he can get that top out.”

Eric started his motor. Its unmuffled exhaust set up a fearful clangor. But when he let in his clutch he did not turn toward the yacht. He did not even look at it. Instead, he began towing the log to the boom.

Taylor Hughes shouted and waved his arms. He yelled through a megaphone, but his voice did not penetrate the echoing roar of Eric’s motor.

"He thinks his log is of more importance than your yacht,” Star Kingsley said.

“It’s the last log he’ll be interested in,” Hughes retorted. “After fouling the Faraway, he has the gall to leave us drifting helplessly.”

“Perhaps he’ll be back after putting the log in his boom.” “He’d better come back. Keegan can’t hold us against the ebb. He’s just able to do it without that log dragging. When the ebb picks up, we’re gone.”

They waited. Hughes shouted directions to Keegan. For a time the tender even gained a few yards. Then the strengthening ebb took hold.

“We can do it when that handlogger gets back to help us,” Taylor Hughes said. “Nothing to worry about.”

ERIC WARE had reached the boom. He worked for several minutes slipping the huge log inside, then got into his gas boat. But he did not turn toward the Faraway. Instead, he thundered away toward the entrance and in a few minutes had disappeared between the towering cliffs. Hughes smashed the megaphone on the rail.

“Get your bags packed!” he shouted to his guests. “I’m putting you ashore.”

Ed Gill heard and came up from the engine room.

“You can’t tow against the tide, but you can tow with it,” he said after a glance down the inlet. "Why don’t you take her to that log boom? We can make fast to it.” Hughes did not comment. Gill shrugged his shoulders. “That or go through the skookum chuck,” he commented. Hughes beckoned Keegan alongside, gave the orders as if the idea were his own.

“And you stay on deck,” he said to the engineer. “Get a dinghy overside. We’ll have to take a line from the stem to the txxim.”

Marion Bruce retreated to the top of the deck house. She had been soaring among the peaks, and all the ecstasy of that experience had vanished. As she leaned against the funnel she tried to reconstruct the hours on the mountainside. It had been a strange mixture of beauty and toil, of delightful contact and primitive drama, and she did not know which had thrilled her most.

She had always felt there must be something admirable in Taylor Hughes. He nothing and was going far. Yet his achievement failed to touch her, while Eric Ware, with only an axe and a saw, had stirred her tremendously. The cool, assured manner in which he had overcome the stupendous forces of Nature had not been theatrical. It had been real and primitive, and had aroused an instant response in her.

And Eric Ware had eyes that smiled with such complete understanding. They became brown, too, when they looked at her. He wore a woollen undershirt and khaki trousers and calked shoes, »d he spoke her language. She knew almost nothing else of him.

Keegan was towing the Faraway across the current now. Taylor Hughes was shouting orders. The anxiety had passed. The yacht would reach the boom and security. Marion wondered if Eric Ware had gone to get help or tools with which to remove the cedar top.

After much hauling and shouting, the Faraway lay alongside a big boom stick. A little later the sound of Eric’s motor rame to Marion and she saw him in the entrance, bucking the current, working eddies along the rocky cliffs, being swept back sometimes but at last forcing through to the inlet.

He did not come to the yacht, however, but went into the next cove to the west where his floating home was moored to the cliffs. His motor stopped, and after a few minutes started again. Marion watched him as he came alongside the Faraway, but he did not look up at it or stop. Instead, he went to one end of the boom and reinforced the chain with steel cable. When he had finished that task, he started his motor and swung back home.

Taylor Hughes shouted and waved, but could not make himself heard. Nor did Eric kx>k toward the yacht.

"That settles it!” Hughes exclaimed. "He doesn’t intend to get the top out. All right. I’ll break him. He’s settled his own rase. Nearly wrecks the ship and then leaves us to sink or swim. Keegan, get into the tender. There is a handlogger’s shack outside in the main inlet. Go down and bring the fellow up here. Tell him I'll pay him well. Tell him to bring his tools. Tell him to come tonight. We can’t waste more time here.”

Marion saw Keegan depart. She could hear Taylor I lughes talking to the Kingsleys. The engineer returned to the Diesel motor, and the clang of his wrenches came up the funnel.

"There is still a question as to whether the shaft, wheel or rudder post has been sprung,” Hughes’ voice sounded. "The chief thinks we can limp along. May be a lot of vibration. We must get the top out first, of course. But a handlogger can do it. They’re used to that sort of thing. Clever beggars, working with heavy stuff. We’ll be out of here tomorrow.”

He was assured now, no longer excited. Marion looked overside and saw the huge logs Eric Ware had penned behind the boom sticks. Each, she knew, had played its part in a drama like the one she had witnessed. And after each giant had been sent thundering into the sea, Eric Ware had climbed to the stump, brandished his axe and sung the Sword Song. Marion tried to imagine Taylor Hughes being driven to song by sheer exultation.

Keegan returned. He reported he had found two handloggers and that they were coming when the ebb had slackened. Taylor Hughes was jubilant. Dinner was announced.

The meal proved less trying than Marion had expected. Taylor Hughes was master of his yacht again, no different than he had been throughout the cruise. Only once did he speak of what had happened.

“I have to be careful,” he said. “Hang on to myself.

I am accustomed to employing large numbers of loggers and to giving orders and having them obeyed. I get results. A Bolshevik handlogger seemed hardly different. He isn’t, really. All the same breed. Only they think they are different. Have to be taught. That’s all.”

They went out on deck after dinner. Even the Kingsleys were impressed by Secret Inlet. It had softened. The setting sun painted peaks and snowfields. Waterfalls loweTieir voices to accord with the evening hush. A thrusn stabbed the stillness with a golden trill. Marion gripped the rail and stared upward, scarcely breathing, until the raucous exhaust of a gas boat sounded in the entrance.

“Now we’ll get results,” Taylor Hughes announced.

HE BOAT headed directly toward the Faraway'.

“They told me they didn’t like coming in here,” Keegan said to his employer.

“Not afraid of the entrance?” Hughes scoffed.

“No, it was something to do with the feller who's logging here. Sounded like they’d had a row with him.”

“Shouldn’t wonder. Surly brute. Take their painter, Keegan.”

The handloggers came aboard. They were dressed exactly as had been Eric Y are the previous evening, even to the type of slippers they wore. One was old, past seventy, with hair the color of the snowfields. His face was seamed and lie moved slowly, but two blue eyes gleamed with bright and friendly interest.

The other was twenty years younger, a huge man whose torso and shoulders stretched his woollen undershirt so tightly the skin showed through the weaving. His head was molded to the same scale, but his face was expressionless. He did not speak once while aboard. Only Marion noted that his eyes communicated great intelligence.

“I have a job for you men.” Taylor Hughes began at once. “This fellow Ware ran a cedar this afternoon, although he knew I was in the inlet, and the top wedged between the wheel and the rudder post. I want you to get it out.”

The old man’s eyes danced and he beamed upon the ship’s company.

"Pretty place in here, ain’t it?” he said jovially. “You could get hung up in lots worse places, mister.”

“I don’t want to be hung up anywhere,” Hughes retorted. “I want that log out.” The old man looked over the side, then went down to his gas boat. His companion followed and they pulled themselves along to the stem, where they spent fifteen minutes examining the situation.

“That looks like a job for a diver or a dry dock,” was the report when they had returned to the deck.

“Nonsense!” Hughes exclaimed. “You can get it out.” “Just how?”

“I’m leaving that to you.”

“But there ain’t no way to get at it.” the old man protested. “This water’s awful cold and I ain’t so young any more. Besides, there’s a question of law.”

“There is nothing whatever in any sort of law that would prevent your giving aid to a vessel in distress. In fact, sea law compels you to do so.”

“Well, well! So you understand it, eh? Maybe you’re right, mister. I couldn’t say. I’d have to ask a lawyer. There’s one from Vancouver that comes cruisin’ up here every year. He’s due next month. Then there’s the pay. Harold and me’s got a fine show down the inlet. We’re making good money.”

“I’ll give you fifty dollars,” Hughes snapped.

“Why, mister, it would take us a week, and we’re makin’ fifty a day handloggin’.”

Marion had lost interest in the old man. He was too simple. But as she turned away she was halted by an expression in Keegan’s eyes.

"Look here!” Taylor Hughes barked. “I want that log out. Must have it out. But I don’t want to be held up just because I’m in a hole. I’ll give you a hundred dollars for the job.”

“Why, we ain’t aimin’ to hold you up,” the handlogger said plaintively. “We’re just tryin’ to protect ourselves, ’at’s all. We got a lot o’ work to do before winter comes. Can’t handlog in here in winter. It ain’t safe. Landslides and all that. Besides, it’s awful wet here winters. Lots of rain.”

“I don't want to be here in winter either,” Hughes said. “What do you want for the job?”

“Well,” the old man answered slowly, “Harold and me wants to be fair. If it was runnin’ a cedar now, or somethin’ ashore, we’d come right out and tell you. and that would end it one way or another. But this log is under water. It’s under six feet of water. We can’t work down there. We might have to spend two days just figurin’ how to go at it. Harold says to chain it to a whale and then touch a match to the whale’s tail. But I ain’t got even that much of an idea. Besides—”

Taylor Hughes lost his temper completely. Marion, glancing at Keegan, caught a glint of exalted amusement in the deck hand’s eyes.

“Do you want this job, or don’t you?” the yachtsman exclaimed.

“That’s what I’m tryin’ to tell you, mister.”

“Any other handloggers in the big inlet?”

“Charley McCann did have a show about ten miles down, but he putin a boom last week and sent to town for a jug. There’s no telling where Charley’ll wind up before the jug’s finished. Last time it was over on the west coast of—” “Oh, shut up!” Taylor Hughes stormed. “Are you going to get that top out?”

Harold, huge and silent, arose. For a long moment he stood looking impassively at the yachtsman, and then he turned and went down to his boat.

“Well, folks, got to be goin’,” the old man chirped, and he ducked his head and smiled his bright smile at all the yacht’s company. “Harold don’t like to be out after dark. Especially in this strong water. Don’t go foolin’ around that entrance over there. The Indians say there’s an evil spirit in it. I don’t take much to that, but it’s better to play safe. Hope you have good luck. Good night, everybody. Good night. Glad to a’ met you.”

He departed. Harold started their motor and the old man cast off. They headed straight for the entrance, and not once did they look back or toward Eric Ware’s cabin around the point.

But they talked, and to be heard above the sound of their exhaust they were forced to shout. No one in a gas boat should discuss anything except politics or the weather.

First came the old man’s voice, and it was no longer a pleasant, friendly chirp.

"Why, that feller had arms and legs and even a face like a man’s.”

“So’s a Si wash’s grandfather on his totem pole,” Harold retorted with booming disgust.

For the first time since the Faraway had entered Secret Inlet, the mountain walls echoed raucous laughter, and the old man was seen to beat Harold on the back.

Marion looked at Keegan. The deck hand was staring at the heights, his scarred face twisted by a rapt expression. “How beautiful!” he exclaimed.

ARION BRUCE was awakened the next morning by a •*-*■*sound she had heard that first evening in Secret Inlet. For a drowsy moment she did not recognize the regular “click-clack” of oarlocks, then she rose quickly and looked out of an open port hole. Eric Ware was rowing past, on his way to work.

Impulsively, the girl raised a hand to wave to him. She forgot the hot. endless climb through brush and devil’s-club the previous morning. She remembered only the cool, lofty temple beneath the great cedars, the bars of sunlight drifting lazily aslant the graceful columns, the wide, flat top of the stump on which she lay and watched the pure grace of motion as a silver saw swept across the age-old fibres of a tree.

In the memory of that day. the girl forgot even that the Faraway lay crippled, that Taylor Hughes had exposed himself so disastrously in a petty situation. She remembered luncheon atop a great, clean, aromatic table, golden flecks that danced in Eric’s eyes when he talked to her. The “click-clack” ceased abruptly, and she looked out the port hole again to find he had rowed around the point.

A few minutes later she heard Taylor Hughes’ voice on deck.

“We’ll get that thing out ourselves,” he said briskly. “Bring in the dinghy, Keegan. We’ll have a look at it. Motor ready, chief?”

“I finished last night,” the engineer answered.

“Fine! We’ll have a look. Handloggers may be all right ashore, but they’re not so clever as I thought. A little brains, a little ingenuity, and we’ll have it out.”

Marion heard them rowing past her port hole. They stopped only a few feet beyond.

“This shouldn’t be very difficult,” Taylor Hughes said. “It went in. It can come out.”

“Sure,” Keegan agreed. “If we had the same power. It was a hammer two hundred feet long and weighin’ twelve to fifteen tons that drove that baby home.”

“We have a lot of power in this ship,” Hughes snapped. “How are you going to use it?” Gill asked. “The main engine’s out. It can’t do anything but turn the wheel, and the wheel’s jammed.”

“We can get a chain around the log,” Hughes insisted. “Ten of ’em,” Keegan agreed. “And then what?” Hughes thrust an oar into the water and was amazed to find that the huge timber was six feet beneath the surface. He peered over the side into the clear water.

“She’s in there so solid she held that big stick and never moved when the handlogger cut it loose,” Gill said. “Why it hasn’t sprung everything out of shape, I can't see.”

“We can get good leverage at the end,” Hughes suggested. “And smash something sure,” the chief finished. “That stick went in from one direction. It’s got to come out the same way. Start swinging the end of the log and you’ll snap off the pintle or spring the tail shaft. Maybe crack the stern bearing, if it ain’t cracked already.”

Hughes continued to peer into the water.

“Chopping it out would be no trick at all,” he decided. “There’s no place in the inlet where we can beach her,” Gill said.

“And no seals we could catch to train,” Keegan added. “If we could get one to swing an axe !”

“Cut out the nonsense,” Hughes snapped. “If you can’t say anything sensible, shut up.”

“The seal business is as sensible as anything I’ve heard yet,” the deckhand said evenly. “And as long as we’re tied to the boom, I can go ashore any time I feel like it. I’ve got quite a list that way now.”

Keegan sat down in the dinghy and lighted a cigarette. He took no further part in the discussion, and soon all three returned to the deck.

A FTER BREAKFAST Taylor Hughes went at it again.

He and Gill leaned over the side of the dinghy and stared down into the water while they discussed ways and means. But they had no tools, no equipment. Later they took the tender and searched the entire inlet for a place where the Faraway might be beached, and the precipitous shores offered none.

“There’s just one thing left,” the engineer said when they returned to the yacht. “This handlogger can do it. Why don’t you ask him?”

“Those other two said they couldn’t,” Hughes objected. “They were queer or something,” and Gill risked a glance at Keegan. “This one—I bet he wouldn’t have trouble. A man who can get those big sticks down into the salt chuck isn’t any fool.”

“Perhaps he’s not a fool,” the owner agreed, “but I won’t be held up. That’s his game. I saw it from the first. Trying to put all the blame on me. Claiming it was all my fault. And then what? He comes and saws off the log and leaves. Won’t give me a chance to talk to him. I’ve been held up before. I know how it’s worked.”

“It’s that or send for a tug,” Gill said, and he went below to his engine room.

Marion Bruce, in her retreat atop the deck house, heard all Taylor Hughes said. She saw it from his side. It did look like a hold-up, if you did not know about Jeff Thatcher.

But Hughes would not quit. He ordered Keegan into the dinghy again and together they got a rope around the end of the log. They pulled on the rope, and pushed downward with a boat hook, and they could not move the big timber. At noon, exhausted and baffled, the yacht’s owner retired to his stateroom.

After luncheon, Marion took a dinghy and rowed up the inlet. She wanted to see another great cedar come crashing off the cliff into the sea. and she hoped Eric Ware would sing. She was only a little way past the point when she heard his call of “Timber!”

Continued on page 37

Continued from page 22

A minute later it came, that first zephyr, the crescendo roar and final thundering crash. It thrilled her as before. The inlet was crammed with sound. She did not breathe while she waited for the giant arrow to come shooting over the edge of the cliff.

Even then it surprised her. The log leaped far out, dived, lunged forward, wallowed like a live thing.

Marion waited, watching the now silent mountainside, for the conclusion of the drama, but it did not come. Minutes passed. At last Eric appeared in the cove behind the cliff and got into his rowboat and went out to the log. Marion followed.

He was towing the big timber toward shore when she drew alongside.

“I have come to help,” she said.

A flashing smile answered her inference that she had no part in the dispute with Taylor Hughes.

“Not much today,” he said. “I ran a small one. Hurried it so as to catch the last of the ebb. Have to count on that in Secret Inlet. Now I'll have time to get back and start a big one for tomorrow.”

“You must climb that mountain and work some more!" Marion exclaimed.

“I have a few hours of the day left. Can’t waste time on this job. Four sections to be made up.”

He had not ceased rowing, a short stroke to take up the slack in the tow line, a mighty heave against the log.

“You didn’t sing today,” Marion said. “I waited for you.”

Didn t feel like it,” Eric answered shortly. What has Hughes been doing?”

“He worked all morning trying to get that timber out. Tied a rope to it, and pushed with a boat hook.”

Eric laughed abruptly. “Where was Keegan?”

Taylor didn t think much of him after a suggestion that they train a seal to use an axe.”

His eyes flashed amusement but he said seriously:

“They’ll never get it out, though I wish they could. I’m afraid of Hughes.”

“Afraid of him!’’ she repeated in amazement.

“He can wreck Jeff Thatcher’s dream for one thing, though I’ll go a long way to prevent that. And he’ll try it in Vancouver, not here. What I want to avoid is having to talk to him again.”

“I think you talked quite successfully yesterday.”

“Better than you know,” Eric said harshly. “I never had my knuckles itch so. I did very well to get off that yacht without expressing myself very—well, satisfactorily.” “You would have struck him?”

“You must admit I took a great deal without doing so.”

"But that is such an ordinary way to express oneself.”

“No better way has been devised to get an idea into a certain type of mind.”

“But it is brutal!” Marion protested. "Primitive!”

“No more so than falling a big cedar. You got a thrill out of that.”

“I won’t believe it.”

“Then don’t put it to a test.”

A yf ARION rowed in silence for a while. -*-*■1. short dabs of strokes that kept her abreast of the handlogger.

“I have a very beautiful memory of Secret Inlet, and of yesterday,” she said slowly. “I wouldn’t want it spoiled.”

Eric, too, rowed in silence for a time.

“It was lonesome up on that mountainside today,” he said at last. “I had sawdust for lunch. The sun did not come through the trees. I didn’t hear a bird sing. It. is going to be like that all fall, Marion Bruce. But if Taylor Hughes gets snarky with me again, I’ll go to work on him. I’d smell if I took any more of that.”

“You can keep away,” she insisted.

“I’d be glad to, but I can’t forget Jeff Thatcher.”

Marion felt that she should say more, and she wondered if she really wished to. She recognized purpose and determination in this man. Perhaps it was the same quality that enabled him to fall the great trees, a quality that had attracted her. Sheer pugnacity was revolting. Strength was another matter.

They were rounding the point now, not far from the Faraway. The Kingsleys were , on deck, and Keegan. Taylor Hughes did not appear. Eric opened the boom, worked the new log inside. When he turned his rowboat back up the inlet, Marion rowed beside him.

“It must give you a marvellous feeling of accomplishment to do that,” she said. “Like a hole in par.”

“It’s the birdies a handlogger needs,” he laughed. “We get into the rough so much.” “You should drive a long ball,” she speculated.

“Sure, if I happened to connect. But this ruins your game. The swing is different, the rhythm, the timing. Even the grip,” and he shook his oars. “After an axe, a brassie seems like a feather duster.”

Marion laughed delightedly. She was thinking of this man talking golf as he went back to work, and of the Kingsleys turning up their noses at his soiled undershirt. They considered him uncouth and a boor, and neither Star Kingsley nor Taylor Hughes had his charm or subtlety or fineness of comprehension.

“I think I will row back with you!” she exclaimed. “If I had on breeches I’d even climb up to your ‘show’.” Is that it— ‘show?’ ”

She dug in her oars, pulled with all her strength, and they disappeared around the ixunt together.

But Eric Ware did not go back to his “show” that afternoon. Their boats drifted lazily on the incoming tide like two saddle horses whose riders have forgotten they hold the reins. Marion had a new and more glorious view of the little inlet, and new glimpses of Eric Ware. He ceased to he the handlogger, or the singer of the Sword Song. The harshness with which he had six)ken of Taylor Hughes was gone.

They laughed, and did a hit of probing and self-exposing, as young people will. Marion found herself wondering if Taylor Hughes ever would be capable of reporting that he liad eaten sawdust for luncheon.

But they spoke only once of Hughes and the Faraway’s plight. Marion, smoothing her skirt that he might not see her eyes dance, and failing in that age-old ruse, said: “That was such a funny white-haired old man who came to see us last night.”

“Dave Bartlett and Jeff Thatcher drove logs together, hack East,” Eric answered. "Between them, Dave and Harold Sherill liave enough brains to conduct the biggest business enterprise in the province. Dave lias sjient fifty-five years with logs. Harold is an Oxford M.A. Each has the same life philosophy. And they could put on a wonderful vaudeville act.”

Marion chuckled, and described the old lumberjack’s conversation with Taylor Hughes.

“And last night you went down there immediately to warn them,” she accused.

“They're both strong for Jeff Thatcher,” was all Eric said.

The two boats drifted on to a waterfall at the head. The mountains rose more steeply here. On one Marion saw a great gash.

“How terrible!” she exclaimed. “What ! conld have done that?”

“Landslide,” Eric answered. “It’s a winter habit in these mountains. You must have seen the results in other inlets.”

“I don’t remember them, but perhaps that is because I haven’t been really interested until I came to Secret Inlet. Isn't a landslide dangerous?”

"Next to an earthquake nothing in Nature can touch them. It seems that everything lets loose at once.”

“Like men when they see red,” she suggested.

“Perhaps,” he answered shortly.

TNEEP shadows had reached the bottom of the inlet when at last they rowed back to the Faraway. Taylor Hughes was on deck, most evidently waiting.

I “Ware,” he shouted as they came in j sight, “how much do you want to take that log out?”

Eric let his boat drift.

“If you mean money I don’t want any: thing,” he answered quietly.

“I’m willing to pay,” Taylor Hughes proclaimed. “I want to get out of this piace.

! The the better. within

“If you are still talking money I want nothing,” Eric answered, and his voice had stiffened.

“Careful,” Marion warned in a whisper. “You can do it, can’t you?”

“I have an idea it could be done,” Eric said.

“All right. What’s your price?”

“My price is this, Hughes. I want a written statement from you that I was in no way responsible for what happened to your yacht.”

“What!” Hughes roared.

“The statement must set forth fully that you disregarded my advice and that you were wholly to blame, and I want your crew and guests to witness your signature. That is my price.”

“You can’t dictate to me,” the yachtsman retorted. “You can’t crawl out of the j responsibility like that.”

He turned to Star Kingsley, who stood j beside him at the rail.

“I told you this was a hold-up. What do you think of the gall of the man? My fault ! It’s a wonder he didn’t kill us.”

Eric glanced at Marion and shrugged his shoulders.

“I wonder why our marvellous days together end like this,” he said. “Do you suppose it is some sort of omen?”

“I'll give you a hundred dollars. Ware, and no statement,” Taylor Hughes broke in harshly.

Eric’s face underwent a swift change. He gripped his oars and for a moment Marion believed he was going to the yacht.

“Good night,” he said abruptly, and rywed away.

“Good night, Eric,’’ Marion called warmly, and for a moment she watched him go.

Keegan was waiting to take her painter. "Slip on a pair o’ brass knuckles when you dress for dinner, miss,” he whispered as he helped her out.

She laughed as she ran up the steps. Taylor Hughes was waiting for her at the deck-house door.

“Eric, eh?” he snarled. “The least I could expect is that you remain neutral.”

“Until this moment, I have been able to do so,” she answered.

“What do you call that just now? How about yesterday? Gone all day in the woods with him. All this afternoon. What were you doing? He wasn’t working. Laughing, flirting with him. I saw it. Star and Polly saw it. Grand story they’ll have about your affair with an ignorant handlogger.”

The man's face was white. His eyes, the eyes that never smiled, held a mad light. His hands trembled.

“Taylor,” she said quietly, “when you have control of yourself I’ll talk with you.” She walked past, but he grasped her arm and whirled her back.

“Control, eh? Think I’m not human? You came on this cruise quick enough. And what happened just before we got to this inlet? What do you suppose I figured that meant? Think I haven’t any feelings, any pride? And a dirty, ignorant handlogger who is trying to hold me up!”

She jerked free then. “Y’ou are contemptible,’’ she said in a low voice, and darted away.

Marion did not appear at dinner that night, nor did she answer when the cook, then Taylor, and finally Polly Kingsley, rapped on her door. She lay on her berth, dry-eyed, without movement, while the deep shadows filled the inlet and brought darkness to her cabin.

Hughes came twice to her door after dark, but she could not hear the soft tread of his rubber soles on the thick deck hour after hour. Marion dropped off to sleep while he : still paced above her, and she did not waken i until sunlight had crept halfway down the mountainside across the inlet.

A SOUND that had become ominously i familiar aroused her—the staccato rattle of Eric Ware’s gas boat. She had heard it first after the big cedar had struck the Faraway, later when Eric went out to | warn Dave Bartlett and Harold Sherill. Marion jumped from her berth and looked ¡ through a port hole. The gas boat sounded r.s if it were in the straight walled entrance, but as she watched she was amazed to see a house emerge from the narrow slit and come swinging into the inlet on the first of the flood. Then she saw the gas boat, tugging away at the house, and turning its large and unwieldy tow toward the cove in which EricWare lived.

The girl began to dress. Her course, she had determined, was to go on deck and assume that nothing had happened. She could not escape from the yacht or from its people. When she.had finished dressing she looked out the port hole again. The gas boat was nearer now, and she recognized Eric Ware at the wheel. She saw, too, that the float cabin was his.

The deck house was empty and she ate breakfast alone. The sound of the gas boat had ceased when she went outside and climbed to her retreat forward of the funnel. She heard the Kingsleys come up, and Taylor Hughes, caught the sound of china ancl silverware beneath her. And when they had finished eating and had walked out on to the deck, she heard another sound grown familiar, the “click-clack” of Eric’s oarlocks.

He came around the ¡wint, standing, facing her, pushing on the oars with great swings of arms and body. She had never seen him row like this. He lunged at the blades, snapped them out of the water with a vicious movement, and his face was grim. He came straight toward the accommodation steps of the Faraway. Marion found the entire scene ominous, and when his boat drew up she hurried to the ladder and climbed down to the deck.

The Kingsleys were seated aft. Keegan was forward, cleaning brass. Eric Ware stood at the top of the steps.

‘‘Where is Hughes?” he demanded harshly.

Star Kingsley did not sneak. Marion started forward.

“Eric !” she cried, and it was a protest and a plea.

“Where is Hughes? ’ Eric repeated.

“Get off my ship!” Taylor Hughes commanded as he stepped from the wheelhouse door.

He stood there, his right hand in a pocket of his uniform jacket. Eric turned instantly and started toward him.

His intention was unmistakable. His big hands were partly clenched and partly raised. But ten feet away he stopped.

“I’m not guessing, Hughes.” he said. “Boom chains do slip. Even a rolling hitch will come away. But your dinghy is the only white boat that has been in Secret Inlet this year, and I found the marks of it on the rocks where my boom was fast to shore. Nothing was broken. The float was cut loose, and on the ebb tide. Did you think that would settle something?”

"Get off my ship!” Hughes repeated, and his voice cracked a bit.

“You gutless pup!” Eric burst forth contemptuously. “Old Dave Bartlett was right. You have the arms and legs and even the face of a man. And that’s all. You’re a yellow bully and a dirty, cowardly sneak, and just to advertise you a bit in the proper channels I'm going to slap you into bed for a week. Drop that gun !”

Taylor Hughes made a quick motion, but Eric’s leap was quicker. He caught Hughes by the shoulder, spun him around, and his right hand grasped the wrist above the weapon. Quite calmly, he rapped the knuckles against the heavy teak rail until the automatic dropped into the sea.

“Keegan!” Hughes screamed. “Grab this man. Call Gill.”

Keegan fished a cigarette from a pocket and proceeded to light it.

Again Hughes was spun around, and slammed against the deck house. Deliberately, and with a certain provoking action. Eric slapped him across the face with an open hand. A pause, a slap from the other hand.

The yachtsman was stung past endurance. He struck out, snarling, cursing, lunging at the handlogger. Eric sidestepped him.

“That is more like it,” he said calmly, and resumed his slapping.

HIS blows w-ere slaps in that he delivered them with open hands. But Eric’s shoulders were wide. His muscles had been built up in terrific toil. His palms were like alligator hide, and the heels of them were hard and heavy.

And against Hughes’ rage he offered astonishing coolness. He ducked the frantic, destrate blows of the yachtsman without breaking the slow rhythm of his own efforts, and soon Hughes ceased to be effective. He covered his face with his arms.

“Keegan !” he pleaded. “Where are you?” “Right here,” Keegan answered. “And I’m a deck hand, not a gob or a marine.” Star Kingsley came forward briskly, and stopped when Eric whirled upon him. Taylor Hughes sank to the deck. His face was smeared with blood. Eric lifted him by the collar and resumed the slapping.

“Stop that!” cried an angry voice behind him. and he turned his head to see Marion Bruce rushing forward.

To be Continued