FICTION

AVALANCHE

ROBERT E. PINKERTON February 15 1933
FICTION

AVALANCHE

ROBERT E. PINKERTON February 15 1933

AVALANCHE

ROBERT E. PINKERTON

The Story: Taylor Hughes, self-made lumber magnate, is crutstng 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 considerable 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 falling and floating a giant tree, singlehanded.

Unfortunately, the log rams the yacht, and during the altercation that follows Taylor threatens to ruin Ware. That night he cuts loose H are’s logs, and this provokes a fist fight between the men on board the yacht next day. Ware wins easily, but Marion is disgusted with his brutality.

PART THREE

ERIC WARE left the yacht, five minutes later. Taylor Hughes had received a bad beating, but was not seriously hurt.

Eric now set to work to free the yacht from the log which impaled it and, after an hour of toil, succeeded. The yacht went out through the little skookum chuck, but Eric and Marion did not exchange farewells.

Fog crowded in from the North Pacific that fall, a wall of it hundreds of miles long that flowed over the outer islands of the British Columbia coast and the innumerable channels between, rolled up the inlets, and was packed solidly between the mountains far from the open sea.

Marion Bruce found the fog portentous. She had started with high purpose and firm resolve, but the maddening grey beat her down. The coastwise steamship in which she had left Vancouver poked into this hole and that, wandered up an endless waterway and back again. Its whistle begged, and a man beat on a gasoline drum with a club to guide the skipper to a tiny float upon which a flat mail sack and one small box of freight were deposited. A land which Marion had found beautiful and inspiring in the bright summer was now empty and desolate, and the fog enfolded her spirit.

At the end of the second day the fog disappeared before southerly weather that, to her, was equally depressing. The sea returned, but the mountains remained hidden. Members of the crew smiled for the first time in weeks. The captain slept. Passengers spoke in normal tones. Marion sat alone in a deck chair aft and dreaded still more this bleak world into which she had come.

Near the close of the third day the ship swept around a rock like Gibraltar and nosed in to a float of cedar logs. Marion, bags packed, standing beneath the bridge, had her first glimpse of Chance Cove.

The shore offered no foothold, not even a thread of beach. Rock walls rose straight from the sea, and moored to them was a collection of half a dozen buildings, each on its own float of logs. More than a score of gas boats were fast to a boom-stick sidewalk like cow ponies beforea Western saloon, and on the large planked float before the warehouse were forty or more men.

At a distance, half of them looked like Eric Ware. White woollen undershirts were sprinkled freely through the crowd. But as the ship crept in, Marion failed to find Eric’s face among all those turned toward her.

It was a jubilant crowd, shouting rough greetings to the captain and asking the purser if he had brought jugs that had been ordered. Marion hesitated when the gangplank had been lowered, then went down into the jostling crowd. It opened at once and let her through to the warehouse. A man sat there on a packing case. It was not until Marion spoke to him and he lifted his head that she knew he was drunk.

“Eric Ware?” he repeated thickly. “Ain’t seen him for two months. And I ain’t missed a boat night either.”

“Do you suppose he has been hurt, caught?” Marion demanded in swift panic.

“Maybe, but I doubt it. It would have to be a spry stick to catch Eric. He’s a handloggin’ fool, him. No man’s got a right to work seven days a week.”

The man started to rise, and Marion hurried through the warehouse. Beyond three feet of jade water floated an unpainted building that bore a sign “Store” with the S turned the wrong way. She jumped the water and entered to find the place empty except for a huge man intent upon weighing sugar to the last grain as he painstakingly shook it into a bag from a scoop.

He did not look up until the scales had balanced perfectly and he had written the amount in a soiled, ragged daybook. Then he turned, and Marion recognized the silent handlogger who had visited the Faraway with Dave Bartlett.

"Oh!” she exclaimed with swift disappointment. “You are working here now.”

I i A ROL D SHERILL looked at her. and then at the I J counter and shelves.

“No.” he said. “What is it you call them down in the States? ‘Cash and Carry.’ ‘Self-Help.’ ‘Groceteria?’ Only here we go a step further and incorporate the golden rule. Wait on ourselves, weigh the goods, enter the amount in the book. Really quite simple. When Billy Swift sobers up he jots down the prices and totals the bill. And sporting, too. That’s Billy. Blotto, but harmless. Quite.”

He pointed to a dark comer, where Marion saw a strange little man curled up on a shelf. He seemed scarcely more than a child and, from the collar up, a huge chrysanthemum. Fiery red beard and hair radiated in every direction from an equally fiery nose.

“So long as Billy is blotto he is safe,” Harold Sherill

continued. “The boys are scrupulous to an extreme. With Billy on his feet, it is another matter. Anything to bilk him. Quite sporting, don’t you think? Perhaps it is why Billy is rately sober on boat night.”

“How interesting!” Marion exclaimed, and her voice failed to express any interest whatever. “But can you tell me? Is Eric Ware here?”

“This sugar is for Eric,” Sherill said as he wrapped string around the bag and consulted a scrap of paper. He wants coffee, too, and a small sack of flour. Dave and I do his shopping. Eric hasn’t been down for two months. But I think he has about made up his boom.”

“Are you going up the inlet?” Marion persisted. “Is there any way to reach him? Can you take me? I must -Her agitation was inescapable, but Harold Sherill did not show interest or concern as he continued to select goods from the shelves.

“Boat night is an institution,” he said. “Dave and I seldom miss one. We have a jug coming today. Sold a boom. Custom, you know. Jug for each, in fact. Several other boys have ordered jugs. I doubt if any one will pull out in less than twenty-four hours. Dave has been counting on this. It is a rite with him. Dates back to his lumberjack days when it was a disgrace to remain sober after the drive. And there are no women here. No place for you to sleep. Though no one else will sleep. No. it is quite impossible. I will take you to Secret Inlet and come back for Dave.” “But I won’t have you do that,”

Marion protested. “Isn’t there a boat I can hire?”

“I wonder what Eric has written here. Ever see his writing? It must be baking powder. He’d have no use for talcum powder. Hasn’t had time to shave lately. The days are short and he drives every possible minute. I hope there is a letter from Jeff Thatcher. Eric is looking for one. You won’t mind if we wait until the mail is sorted? I wonder if Eric ever told you about the Secret Inlet timber, and Jeff.

It will be an important letter. Pardon a moment, and I’ll get the mail.”

He returned with a thin government sack. Billy Swift offered no protest to a search for the key, and a small bundle of letters and another of papers were shaken on to the counter. Evidently Sherill found a letter for Eric, for he placed one in a pocket and then began to pack the groceries in a box.

“I can’t have you do this,” Marion exclaimed.

“Eric Ware is a friend of mine,”

Sherill said simply. “As is Jeff Thatcher. I find them both very admirable. Their purpose is truly so.

I am assuming that your wish to see Eric has a bearing on that purpose and I admire your coming alone. Now we are ready. I have told Dave.”

Secret Inlet was fifty miles from Chance Cove, and Harold Sherill’s gas boat seemed an uncertain craft. The cabin was small and bare and filled with odors of the hot motor. Twice that night the motor stopped, while the boat drifted in the rain and darkless and Sherill tinkered without conviction.

“She spits as if she were asking for gas,” Marion suggested hesitantly after he had worked an hour.

He discovered that the carburetor was empty. “The line is probably clogged,” he said.

He had provided thoughtfully for Marion. A clean new blanket from the store was spread over a bare board bench for her to lie upon, and at midnight he boiled tea on a rusty, watchcharm stove, and lavishly opened cans and jars of anchovies, olives, asparagus tips, jam, salad dressing and sardines.

While he ate they talked most delightful nonsense, and then he returned to the rain-swept deck and the black darkness between the mountains. Marion slept with the erratic motor pounding beside her feet, and with a sense of peace and security that continued when the gas boat rolled and lunged in a freshening breeze. She did not waken until the motor slowed and she heard Eric’s voice outside in the darkness.

EVIDENTLY Harold Sherill had not told of his passenger.

He gave Eric the letter, and when Eric went inside to read it. he unloaded the groceries and placed Marion’s bags in a dry place beneath the shed at the end of the cabin.

“I am returning at once,” the Englishman said when she came on deck. “Will you please explain to Eric that I must look after Dave.”

He helped her to the float and shoved the gas boat away, let in his clutch. Marion was already at the door and Eric, attracted by the sound of the motor, threw it open.

“Where are you going?” he shouted, and then saw the girl standing before him.

He had all the advantage. Her face was in the light, his in dark shadow. She only knew that he was staring at her, and not moving.

“I really have quite a lot to say,” she remarked with a smile.

“I am so sorry!” and he leaped aside. “One moment it was Harold, the next you. I still don’t believe it.”

Marion walked around the table. She could have turned with her back to the light, but she scorned the advantage.

“A lot to say.” she repeated. “But your bacon is burning and the coffee is about to boil over. It must be an unearthly hour for breakfast. Let’s get it on the table and then you can listen.”

Eric returned her frank and somewhat searching gaze, then smiled.

“You can’t tell me much,” he said. “About yourself, at least. I certainly have been a stiff-necked fool. And you must be starved and tired.”

“Not a bit,” she laughed happily. “Mr. Sherill was the most charming and thoughtful person, even though his motor is still a vast mystery to him.”

“It will drown him some day,” Eric grinned. “What did you think of boat night?”

“It frightened me a bit, all those men and not a woman in sight. But I didn't see much of it. Mr. Sherill hurried me away.”

“Harold would. He was afraid you would think it rough, and it isn't in the least. Was Billy Swift on display?” “Between some canned goods and a ton of flour. I nearly pinned him on my coat lapel.”

Eric chuckled, and his eyes danced as he looked at her. Marion felt herself soaring. She felt that they were back on the huge cedar stump on the mountainside, eating luncheon in the vast forest temple. She helped him set the table, poured the coffee, and their gaiety continued through the meal. It was not until they had finished and lighted cigarettes that the smile left Marion’s face.

“First off,” she began abruptly, “I am sorry for last summer. That final incident, I mean. I haven’t any excuse, except that I was an opinionated little fool who had no right to pass judgment on the motives of any one, and also that I did not know until a few days ago why you came aboard the Faraway that last morning.”

“That is mighty noble but I don’t deserve it,” Eric said. “I felt that I was justified in what I did, and mc.e, but I was not—”

"You were justified!” she interrupted fiercely, and then she smiled at her own vehemence. “You see, it is new to me, and freshly horrible. Why, Eric, he meant to kill you!” “Perhaps,” Eric laughed. “At least, I thought so at the time. And, as I was about to say, you were entitled to an explanation. I’m sorry. I’ve cursed myself ever since. You asked me to keep my hands off Hughes and I should have told my story.”

“Not at all. And he did try to kill you.”

“I might have been killed.” Eric admitted. “Really, this is funny. You are all steamed up and I can laugh about it. But when I wakened in the middle of the night and discovered that I was whirling through the skookum chuck in a float house that might go to pieces at any moment, perhaps I wasn’t exactly sane. Especially as I felt that Hughes had been coward enough to sneak up in the darkness and do it without fear of discovery.”

“He did !” she cried hotly.

“I was sure of it, but I can’t get angry now. And to have you come all this way in winter just—”

“I would have come ten times as far!" Marion interrupted. “I feel that I owed you that much in payment for the most delightful and perfect ex|x*rience I have ever had. 1 have known that I should, even before 1 learned how Taylor Hughes tried to kill you. I wish, Eric,” she concluded passionately. “that you had clenched your fist every time you hit him.”

His eyes were brown now, as she loved to see them, and the golden flecks danced brilliantly.

“You're a grand person, Marion Bruce," he said huskily, and he started to rise from his chair.

But she motioned him back with hand and glance.

“I have another confession,” she said. “I was responsible for his actions last summer and I am responsible for what he is planning now. I believed Taylor Hughes to be without emotion. He proposed to me that day we came in here, with one hand on the steering wheel, one eye on the compass and most of his mind on what a fortunate person I was. But it isn’t true about his emotions. He is vindictive and ruthless and cruel, and he hates ». like the villains that I thought lived only in books.”

"Has he been bothering you?” Eric demanded harshly.

“No, but Eric! He bought the notes Jeff Thatcher signed. He says he is going to foreclose and get all this timber, and then he is going to put in machinery and wreck it. Secret Inlet! He says there won’t be a growing thing left when he is through. He is going to do it because he hates you, and he hates you because of me. and that’s why I came. Eric, you won’t let him!” The hand logger’s eyes glowed and he leaned across the table.

“You are glorious when you are aroused,” he exclaimed. “I hate to bring you down to earth, but I’ll finish the boom before night, if you’ll let me work today. A tug is due any time and the logs will get to Vancouver well before the notes are due.”

“You don’t understand what Taylor Hughes is like. He is coming up here, in the Faraway. And he’ll do anything to wreck you.”

He glanced about the room in mock alarm.

“You must take this seriously,” she cried. “I am responsible. I can’t have him win now. And you don’t know' what he will do.”

“I am sorry,” Eric said quickly when he saw that she was close to tears. “But there is nothing he can do. 1 can’t believe he is even f(*)l enough to come.”

“I haven’t seen him since we returned to Seattle last summer,” Marion said. “He called me up several times, but I would not talk with him. He wrote, but I sent his letters back. I wasn’t being up-stage. 1 simply did not wish ever to see him again. I told him so before the cruise ended. He made one statement then, ‘I’ve never yet failed to even a score !

“I didn’t think anything of that at the time. I was in California for a while. The Kingsleys went to the Orient immediately after we returned. I hadn’t seen them until a few nights ago, when I ran into Polly at a big party. Polly always gets maudlin at a party.

"First off, she spoke about the time you slapped Taylor so thoroughly. While Star was caring for him in his stateroom, Taylor admitted he had cut your float house loose on the ebb tide. He boasted of it, rather, and bemoaned the fact you had come through alive. Later, when he got control of himself, he denied it. But he said he would square that slapping if he had to spend the rest of his life on the job.

“This was new to me, but it didn’t mean much. The threat didn’t. But Star had just seen Taylor and had asked him about his handlogger feud. Taylor showed Star the notes. He still thinks it’s you he is trying to wreck. He had made enquiries and knows when you expect to have your boom completed. And he told Star he was planning a cruise to Secret Inlet. ‘To look after his interests,’ he said.”

“He won’t come,” Eric insisted. “Liven if he does, there is nothing he can do to stop me.”

“But he is coming,” Marion insisted.

“Polly told me that Taylor actually shivered when he spoke of you. Star said he didn’t know a man could get so worked up over anything. And I found Keegan. He is working on another yacht and he learned for me that the Faraway had been put in commission and a crew hired.”

She paused and watched Eric.

“I caught the next boat for Vancouver,” she concluded.

“You grade number one cedar, Marion Bruce,” Eric said softly. "You are exactly as I thought you would be when I first saw you last summer.”

He arose and walked to a window. The late dawn had come. Rain fell more furiously now, rattling on the shake roof and driving lie fore a freshening breeze. Eric turned to a barometer on the wall and Marion saw that his eyes were troubled.

“You are not going to let Taylor Hughes do anything now!” she exclaimed.

“I wasn’t thinking of Hughes,” he said.

“He’ll have his hands full taking care of himself if he comes. And I will. too. We’re in for a southeast gale and I must get to work.”

ALL THAT DAY rain beat on the little , shake cabin and hissed on the surface of the sea. An endless wall of vapor flowed up the inlet and swirled about the lower slopes of the mountains. Marion scarcely knew they were mountains. Three hundred feet up they disappeared into the driving clouds.

It was a grey world. Sea and clouds were grey, and nothing else existed. Sometimes the rain became a roar on the sides and roof of the cabin. A swell set in. and the float rocked slightly. Beside it, the great cedar logs tobbed and rubbed and creaked within the boom sticks.

All day Eric worked on those logs. They had already been placed in sections, each bounded by four long boom sticks chained together at the comers. The huge timbers had been cut into shorter lengths and were tightly pressed together. Now, across each of the four sections. Eric was drawing long logs, “swifters,” which were chained down at the sides, thus binding the mass securely. He handled the “swifters” with a booming winch which lie turned by hand, and set them in place with a peavey.

Marion spent much time watching him from the door. Eric wore calked shoes, and his movements seemed awkward when he walked. But when he leaped across open water or ran along a log he displayed a surprising grace and agility.

His energy was prodigious. He never paused. He did

not appear to study or plan his work but leaped into it deftly and surely. Only occasionally did he glance up at the driving clouds or shake the rain water from his dripping

face.

Each of those huge logs, Marion knew, had been a growing tree on a mountainside not very long before. Eric’s toil, and his alone, had brought them to the sea. Each log meant a stump left on a steep slope, meant endless hours of steady sawing, of deft chopping, of nice calculation. Each meant suspense and drama, and a thrill of victory as it went crashing into the salt chuck. Marion wondered how many times Eric had climbed the stump to sing his Sword Song.

She liad a meal ready for him at twelve o’clock, and found herself pleasantly agitated when he entered the cabin. The task suggested an intimacy. Women cooked while their mates toiled. She wanted very much to surprise him with a delicacy, and she sought to make it all very commonplace by standing at a window and looking out into the grey smother.

But Eric brought a cold, wet breath of the sea with him. and he made a laughing comment about his “lady cook.”

“They’re getting to be quite an institution along the

coast,” he said, “though this is the first time one ever prepared a meal in Jeff Thatcher’s cabin. Jeff looks upon them with scorn, and he’s afraid, too.”

“Afraid?” Marion was trapped into asking.

“Matrimony is almost certain,” Eric assured her. “I haven’t gathered statistics, but the handlogger mortality is high. Jeff insists all traditions of the craft are going by the board as a result of lady cooks.”

“I don’t like the term.”

“But it is so expressive,” Eric insisted. “Besides being common usage. They are cooks, and they are ladies. They will work only for partners. You have broken their code and you will probably be kicked out of the sisterhood.” Marion laughed. “Go on.”

“Policy rules the lady cook. With two men, she can play one against the other. Jim washes the dishes for her, and Harry takes her for an evening row. She weighs Jim’s buck teeth against Harry’s irritating laugh, and Harry’s strength against Jim’s craft in money matters. She can learn which is the neatest around the house, which has to be prodded into getting in the stove wood, and in these thin shake cabins she can even discover which has the worst snore. They are a great institution. The young and middle-aged hand loggers fall for them, but the old timers

like Jeff Thatcher and Dave Bartlett think they are an abomination.”

“And you?” Marion taunted.

“Can’t afford one. Not the money but the time. They make it harder to go to work in the morning and easier to quit at night. Cut a man’s working time from twelve to eight hours. But you’d qualify.”

“Those biscuits—” Marion began hesitantly.

“Biscuits!” Eric scoffed. “All they need is a bit of frosting and they’d be angel food. I’ve eaten store bread for months, four days old when it reaches Chance Cove and another week before I finish it here.”

“What you have done for Jeff Thatcher!” she exclaimed.

“You don’t know Jeff or you would understand. I am going to take you to see him when we get down to Vancouver. You’ll love Jeff. He isn’t getting on very well. That letter—he won’t write me what the doctors say. The boom is all he is interested in, all he thinks about. You know, your ex-friend is taking a big chance when he comes mixing in this.”

Eric’s face had suddenly become hard and all the laughter was gone from his eyes.

“How about it?” he demanded shortly. “Anv mies?”

“I feel entirely responsible for this,” Marion exclaimed.

“That’s out.”

“Whether it is or not, I only hope that whatever you do is enough.”

“Fine! If Hughes chooses to be primitive in his emotions and instincts we’ll handle him in a primitive way. I’ve got to get at those swifters.”

E WENT OUT into the storm without waiting to smoke a cigarette. The wind was blowing harder now, the swell had increased and Marion found some difficulty in walking on the heaving floor of the cabin. The rain on the shakes was a continuous roar, but beneath this she could still hear it hissing on the sea.

Darkness came at four o’clock, and Eric did not quit work. Marion could see him with a lantern on the great, bobbing logs. Once, when she opened the door to get stove wood from the shed, she felt a cold breath come down from the mountains. The night was completely black now and she could hear waves washing against the float.

She had supper ready at six o’clock, but still Eric did not come. She could see the lantern at the other end of the boom, and on shore. Once she called to him, but the gale hurled her voice back into the cabin and threatened to blow out the lamp.

“Sorry,” Eric said when at last he appeared, “but I didn’t dare quit until I had finished. I’d trade this sou’easter for Hughes any time.”

“But Secret Inlet is so small and seemed like such a safe place,” Marion exclaimed.

Eric smiled. “This isn’t Secret Inlet,” he said. “We’re outside, in the big inlet, a mile below the entrance. You couldn’t tell, with the clouds and rain. It’s the rain that makes Secret Inlet unsafe.”

“Landslides,” he continued when she showed that she did not understand. “Avalanches, you probably call them. And it has been snowing up above. Has been since noon yesterday. You can feel it in the air. Remember that scar on the mountain I showed you last summer?”

“But Eric!” she protested. “After all Jeff Thatcher has done!”

“I know. But Jeff accepts ‘The Almighty,’ as he calls it. Big loggers with their devastating machinery is what he wants to balk.”

“Everything is against Jeff.”

“Looks like it,” he agreed. “Getting hurt, Hughes, now the chance of a landslide. I wish you hadn’t come.”

The abruptness of the last startled her.

“I don’t want to frighten you,” he continued, “but even the big inlet isn’t safe. The mountains are steep. We have had a dry fall. Moss and small growth haven’t a good hold. With this weight of water, and snow higher up, something may give way. A patch no bigger than the stove would start it.”

“You mean that we are in danger here?” Marion asked.

“Any place along the shore. I picked this for shelter from the wind and seas. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t think of a landslide. Now, with a dry fall, and you here, there is that possibility.”

He was worried. He was tired, too. Marion remembered the long hours on the logs, and the long months preceding.

“I don't see how my being here is going to influence an avalanche,” she laughed. “Sit down and eat your supper. Is the work on the boom finished?”

Continued on page 30

Continued from page 22

“She’s as tight as I can make her, and fast to shore. I don’t dare take you out in the gas boat, bucking this gale.”

"Of course not,” Marion answered cheerfully. “I wouldn’t go anyhow. And tell me about a landslide. Did you ever see one?” “No, and there’s not much to see. Generally cloudy. But you hear it. And if you got a thrill out of seeing me fall a cedar! Except for a volcano or an earthquake, Nature hasn’t anything quite so spectacular or so terrifying.”

"And your boom? The wind won’t tear it loose?”

“Not a chance.”

"Then we have nothing to worry about. I wish Harold Sherill had left something from his jug. This is an occasion that deserves a toast because, whether or not Jeff Thatcher realizes what you have done, I do, Eric Ware.”

He made a mock bow but it did not hide his confusion, and he began at once to sample the handicraft of his "lady cook.” Afterward he wanted to help with the dishes, but Marion refused.

"You am take me rowing afterward,” she laughed. "Though I don’t think you are crafty about money matters, working all these months for nothing.”

“It is a demonstration of what I can do.” “Perhaps, but such altruism indicates a basic weakness. Is the cabin going to pitch like this all night?”

“Tide has turned and the swell is bigger,” Eric answered aisually. “We’re really well sheltered by the point.”

Marion found this difficult to believe. She wondered if she would get seasick. You expected a lx>at to pitch, but not a house. The wind, though she would not admit it, had become terrifying, and the rain was falling in torrents.

“Think of the poor devils ashore on a night like this,” Eric laughed. “Chimney |x>ts tumbling upon their heads, cars sliding off the roads, and —”

A blinding flash of light swept the cabin. Marion cried out. Eric leaped to a window.

“It’s the tug!” he exclaimed. “I thought she’d wait at Chance Cove for this to blow over.”

“THE BRIGHT LIGHT had vanished I Marion could see only a dim red s¡x>t and two white ones. Eric, after one glance, had turned to put on his calked shoes.

“Luck!” he panted as he strained at the wet footwear. "I didn’t like your being here. Something might slip. Now I can put you aboard her.”

"I won't go!” Marion retorted. “Lady cooks don’t run away.”

“You’ll go,” he said grimly. “You were a brick to come, but you've accomplished your errand. I’ve worried about you all day.”

lie was having trouble getting the soaked shoes on over thick wcxfllen socks. The light flashed in the window again, remained as if studying them, then was whisked away. A shoe lace snapjxxl. Eric cursed.

“This gale may last a day or two,” he said. “No need of the tug staying here. It can take you to Chance Cove. You can catch the boat on its return tomorrow.” “Can’t the tug take the logs now?” Marion asked. “Before Taylor Hughes comes?”

Eric stamped a foot into a steel-spined shoe. “The best txx>m ever put together would break up in this wind.”

He got both shoes on at last, snatched sou’wester and oilskins from a peg, lighted a lantern.

“I’ve got to take their bow line ashore,” he said as he struggled into the coat. "Don’t want an extra strain on the boom chains.”

He opened the door and ducked out quickly, before the wind could extinguish the lamp. The cabin shook in a blast and rolled to a big swell. Marion could not see

him go. The cabin was windowless at that end. She looked out toward the inlet, but could see only a dim white light high above the boom and beside it.

The cabin rose and fell and swayed. Wind grasped the shakes and threatened to rip them away. And always the rain roared upon the roof. Sometimes the blasts came straight down from the snow peaks and a chill drove through the thin shake walls. Marion thought of the mighty crash of the giant cedar the previous summer, and of how puny it now seemed.

And she discovered that she was not afraid. Nature had unleashed its furies, yet she felt that Eric Ware could meet any situation. She waited calmly for his return, and with a fresh determination that he should not send her away on the tug.

He came after a while, water streaming from his oilskins. He did not remove his sou’wester but stood looking at her from beneath its narrow brim.

“Know what I am going to do?” he demanded harshly. “I am sending you to Chance Cove where you will be safe.”

“I won’t go in a smelly old tug!” she flared.

"It isn’t a tug. It had made fast by the time I got out there. It’s the Faraway with Hughes aboard.”

Marion jumped to her feet.

“And you’re letting him stay!” she cried.

“He hasn’t seen me. He thinks I’m still in Secret Inlet. There’s no anchorage out here, and he’s so glad to be tied up that he doesn’t care much where he is.”

“But he came to wreck you!”

“I can get you aboard,” Eric continued. “Wrapped up, he’d never suspect who you are. And I can tell him it isn’t safe here, that I’m afraid of a landslip. If one comes, it will crush his boat. I can scare him out all right. You will be safe on the Faraway. She can easily make it down to Chance Cove.”

“Eric, I believe you would lose Jeff Thatcher’s boom to do that. I’d rather risk a dozen landslides than go aboard the Faraway. I came here because I feel that I am responsible for Taylor Hughes, and here I stay.”

“If anything should happen to you, Marion Bruce!” Eric said slowly. “Don’t you see?”

She had never heard that tone, and his eyes were brown with gold flecks in them. All the fight went out of her. She only knew that this man put her ahead of all else, that he was even willing to compromise with Taylor Hughes to protect her. Marion’s own eyes were shining, telling as much as his, but as he took a swift step toward her they heard footsteps in the shed.

The latch was lifted, the door thrown open by the wind, and Taylor Hughes, head bowed as the rain beat at his face, came stumbling into the room.

"Worst night I ever—” he began, and then he saw Marion.

NEITHER Eric nor Marion spoke. They sUxxi near each other, watching the man in the glistening yellow oilskins and sou’wester. Hughes stared from one to the other. He had berm without anger when he entered. His one emotion had been relief that he had found shelter from the gale, and he had come to talk to the handlogger whose aid he had sought, to learn if his yacht were secure for the night. Now his rage flared.

“What are you doing here?” he shouted at Marion.

“I wouldn’t kick a Siwash out a night like this,” Eric said, “but one more break like that and I’ll knock you through the side of the shack.”

“You’ve messed in this enough,” Hughes retorted. “I’m speaking to Miss Bruce.” “Not with a million words!” the girl cried.

"Marion, I went to your father. He told me where you had gone, and he asked me to go after you and bring you back. The fog held me up but I—”

She laughed, and so delightedly that Eric was halted in his first stride toward Hughes.

“Isn’t that beautiful?” she demanded of the handlogger. “Without the fact that I came with dad’s consent and full understanding, it is still beautiful. Why, the man hasn’t even the courage of his convictions.” “Or the courage of a louse,” Eric growled. Hughes ignored all that. “The Faraway is ready for you, Marion,” he said stiffly.

Again she laughed, and Eric looked at her uncertainly.

“He suggests as an alternative to my being here alone with you that I go alone with him in his yacht,” she said gaily. “Convention is all a matter of viewpoint, isn’t it, Taylor?”

“All right,” Hughes said. “I can’t force you. But I am giving you a chance. Your last chance,” he ended with an unmistakable inflection.

It was a short fuse for Eric Ware. He leaped, smashed down Hughes’ upflung arms and whipped his right across. The yachtsman spun into a comer.

“I tried to laugh you out of this,” Marion said.

Eric stood watching the motionless body. He did not speak when Marion asked with sudden anxiety if Hughes might not be dead. Hughes himself answered that question. His legs twitched. At last he rolled over and sat up, looked about in a daze.

“Listen!” Eric said harshly. “You’re lucky. I’m letting you go now. Get into the Faraway and cast off. Get out of here. Get out of the inlet.”

The cabin careened alarmingly and a blast came down from the mountainside with a terrifying roar. Hughes glanced about in sudden fright.

“It’s no worse than when you came in,” Eric said. “Your boat can live in this.” “But it’s black dark!” Hughes protested. “We nearly ran into the beach coming up.” “You didn’t have to come.”

Hughes was on his feet now. He stumbled to a chair and held his jaw. All the fight had gone out of him.

“I have only two men besides the cook,” he protested. “The motor isn’t working well. The engineer can’t leave it. The deck hand is green. I can’t trust him alone at the wheel. We fought fog all the way up the gulf. We haven’t had any sleep.”

“Cast off or I’ll cut you loose,” Eric said. “That’s murder in a gale like this.”

“Not in a skookum craft like the Faraway.”

Hughes lifted his oilskins and reached for a pocket. Eric leaped upon him.

“You pulled a gun on me once before!” he exclaimed savagely.

He yanked the man to his feet, slammed him face to the wall and searched his pockets. An automatic was in the coat. Eric stepped back, holding the weapon. “You haven’t fooled any one, Hughes,” he said. “I know why you came. You may be an important person in your own world, but you’re only a greenhorn yachtsman up here. You may be worth a lot of money and you’ll probably make a lot more. But you’re playing my game now, not yours, and you don’t stand a chance.”

“Tell him about Jeff Thatcher,” Marion interrupted.

“Why?” Eric retorted harshly. “What does his sort care about Jeff’s idea. It would only make him laugh.”

“I’ll say something,” Hughes broke in. “Maybe you’ve got me now, Ware. I’m no bar-room rowdy. But the handlogger never lived who could win out against me in the long run. I’ll give you a chance, though. I’ll drop this on one condition.” “Don’t bother to name it,” Eric said. “Get out.”

“I’ll not molest you again, in any way, if you put Marion aboard the Faraway. I’ll guarantee to take her straight back to Seattle.”

BODY stiffened as Hughes began to speak, but when he heard the proposition he relaxed. The storm was gaining in intensity. The float swayed and the wind shrieked about the cabin. A cold draught sucked across the floor, and Eric knew it meant mountain sides covered with snow. He glanced at Marion.

“No!” the girl cried defiantly. “I won’t go with him. I know what you are thinking, Eric Ware, and I won’t listen to it.”

“You must listen to it,” Taylor Hughes said.

“I would rather stay here and be crushed by a landslide,” she retorted. “Nothing could force me, or induce me, to go aboard your boat or have anything to do with you. I don’t hate you, or loathe you. You are not of sufficient importance in my life for that. But I do dislike being in the same room with you, and I don’t trust you. Now get out.”

All color left Taylor Hughes’ face. Tense and angry as Eric Ware was, he was startled by the blind hatred he saw in the other man’s eyes.

“That sounds final,” Hughes said in a strained voice. “We’ll call it so.”

He opened the door, and the wind blew out the light. Marion felt Eric standing beside her. He did not move until the door was closed.

“That seemed to settle Hughes,” he said. “The trouble with a well-ordered life is that the emotions run amuck when they get the upper hand.”

“It is his ego,” she retorted angrily. “He hasn’t a decent emotion, Eric. I hate myself for ever having—aren’t you going to light the lamp?”

“Not yet. I want to watch him. I wouldn’t trust him under any circumstances. Wait here.”

But Marion followed him outside and pressed against the side of the shed, where she had some protection from the wind and driving rain.

The mast light of the Faraway showed beside the log boom. The deck lights had not been turned on. A dim glow came from a wheelhouse window. With such scant illumination, it was impossible to see any one on the yacht.

Marion and Eric waited. The rain drove like shot against the cedar shakes. Marion could hear it hissing on the sea, a sound that persisted even beneath the roar of the wind.

“Some night!” came in shreds from Eric’s lips.

Marion discovered that her eyes were not entirely useless. The white hull of the Faraway began to take form. A silver glow covered the water, eerie and fascinatingly beautiful. She knew it was phosphorous. Flashes of it came from the blackness beyond the yacht where the big seas were breaking.

The girl smiled. Taylor Hughes and his million or so of dollars were infinitesimal in the presence of the storm’s might. Even Eric, who had thrilled her by his conquest of forest giants, must be helpless before such force. A chill blast reminded her of the incalculable power he dreaded, and that lurked a mile above them.

Continued on page 32

Continued from page 30

“He’s leaving!” Eric shouted.

SHE SAW the light at the masthead swing out and dip to the swells. It dropped back beside them, then forged ahead.

“Didn’t think he had the nerve,” Eric said in her ear. “But they’re safe enough. They can buck it down to Chance Cove and get in there at daylight.”

The mast light of the Faraway was swinging violently now. Suddenly it disappeared.

“Around the point,” Eric shouted. “Let’s go inside and get warm.”

He lighted the lamp and poked more w(X)d into the stove, and when he looked at her all the harshness was gone from his face.

“What you said to him was enough,” he chuckled. “He won’t come again while this gale is on. When it blows out, the tug will be here to take the boom.”

“Jeff Thatcher wins!” she cried gaily. Eric sat down and stared at his shoes. “Guess I’ll be safe in taking them off again,” he said. “But I wish you were in Chance Cove or Seattle.”

“Please, Eric! Why rob me of all the thrills?”

“You’ll get one if something starts up the mountain,” he said anxiously. “If Jeff’s gas boat would live five minutes out there, I’d take you away.”

“Shush! Shush! The lightning has struck and missed.”

She laughed at him, refused to be afraid. She sat across the table and leaned her elbows on it. The light glinted in her golden brown hair and brightened the gay laughter in her eyes. Moisture still clung to her long lashes. Eric stared at her. He was tense, and his mouth was slightly open, and before the kx)k in his eyes the mocking light in hers faded.

“Lady cook.” he whispered.

"I wasn’t satisfactory. You tried to get rid of me. But I stuck to the end.”

“Do you think I could go up on a mountain-side and work twelve hours, knowing you were alone in the cabin?” he demanded.

“Jeff Thatcher must be a man of sound judgment.”

Eric swung around and put his own elbows on the table, and abruptly Marion was serious.

“You never answered me last summer. I said you are not a hand logger.”

“I won’t be when the tug comes for this boom,” he admitted. “At least, I haven’t another show in sight.”

“But you—”

The cabin float soared and fell on a great surge. The movement was so violent Marion nearly lost her balance. Then the cabin shivered, not from the blast but from a heavy impact. The lamp tottered, would have gone over had not Eric caught it.

Involuntarily, he glanced toward a window. As his head swung. Marion caught an expression of terror in his eyes.

“We’re adrift!” he shouted.

To be Concluded