Robert E. Pinkerton
BLACK NIGHT gripped the cabin and beat the sea. Marion Bruce believed that even the mountains must shiver before the blasts.
First came the darkness. Again it was complete when Eric blew out the light.
"We can’t have a fire with the rest," he said.
She heard the dr open and close and knew he was gone, and when she followed to the shed she felt that she had stepped into an inferno of liquid pitch.
The float reared and swayed terrifyingly, the wind threatened to tear the cabin from its support of logs. She could not see, nor could she distinguish any sound except that of the storm.
Eric was gone. She had no idea where or why. She did not know what risks he might meet on those rearing timbers. She thought only that he would belost out there in the frenzied night, and leave her to go to death alone.
Her eyes strained against the darkness and her ears against the roar. The eerie light of phosphorus in the troubled water began to glow. Sheets of white fire drove through the air. and a black square, she guessed, meant the nearest section of the b.
Then Eric returned. She knew it only because his body shut off the glow of the phosphorus, and she put out her hand.
“Get your skirt off," he shouted. "Did you bring breeches? Jeff’s oilskins will help. Come inside.”
“But what happened?” she insisted in the comparative quiet of the closed cabin.
"We’re adrift. Get into those pants. 1 had sections and
float house inside the boom sticks, and a chain parted. We haven’t a chance, Marion Bruce, and you could have been aboard the Faraway.”
"I would rather be here,” she answered simply. “What will happen next?”
“We’re headed up the inlet. If the logs hang together long enough, we’ll bring up against a cliff and try to batter down a mountain. But boom and float will go to pieces before then.”
“Your gas boat?”
"It was outside the boom, close in behind the point where it wouldn’t rub too much. It didn’t come along. I can't find the rowboat.”
Marion was busy getting into riding breeches and a wool shirt and warm jacket. Eric groped in the darkness for Jeff Thatcher’s oilskins and held the coat for her. He tied Jeff’ssou’wester securely on her head.
“We never had a chance, you and I.” he said huskily. “We’ve had the most glorious days together, three of them, and they have always ended in disaster.”
“But we had them," she cried. “And. Eric, I don’t believe anything can whip you.”
His arms went out for her in the darkness, and a terrific shock threw her into them. Eric reeled against a wall, then sprang to the door.
“Come on !” he called. “We’re on the beach.”
He took her hand and led her out into the darkness. The float crashed again, and both went to the plank floor of the shed.
"I counted on the wind carrying us off shore,” he shouted.
“There's a point below here, and a cove behind it. Lie still.”
She heard him pawing about in a corner of the shed. A rope dragged across her feet. Tha float shivered beneath her as it struck, and she confidently expected that it would fall apart.
“We’re touching the shore,” she cried. “Can’t we get off the float?”
“No chance. It’s a straight wall of rock. And, Marion! Will you mind if 1 leave you—alone here?”
He crouched beside her. His wet hands felt for her face, then gripped her shoulders.
“It is this way,” he said. “We are bumping along the cliff. We may go to pieces any minute, and that’s the end. And we may hang together. It’s not far. The shore falls away at the point, and we’ll be swept out into the middle of the inlet. It is at the point that I am going to leave you.”
“You mean you will swim?”
“I’ll take a light line. If I make it, I’ll drag a steel cable ashore. If I can make that fast, and it holds, the boom will swing around the point.”
“If it doesn’t?”
“I’m ashore and you’re headed down the inlet on the logs.”
The storm could not drown the anguish in his voice. Marion struggled to her feet.
“It’s our only chance,” he said. “You could never swim in this sea.”
“You’ll make it,” she cried confidently. “Hurry!”
MARION felt the rope dragging past her feet, and she was alpne in the storm. The float struck repeatedly. On one side was the glowing silver fire of the sea. on the other the black cliff. After what seemed an interminable time. Eric returned.
“I’ve laid out the cable.” he said. “Hope it doesn’t kink or catch on a swifter. You’ll have all you can do to hang on.” “Are we far from the point?”
“Most there. I think. The logs and the cabin are chained together. I did that, first thing. The cabin acts as a sail and the logs help to break the seas for us. We’ll—”
The float was lifted by a great wave and flung against the cliff. Marion was hurled through the thin shake wall of the shed. As she scrambled to her feet she felt a plank lift beneath her.
“Float’s gone to pieces!” Eric shouted when he reached her in the darkness.
He picked her up and ran recklessly over lunging, tangling timbers. His calks bit into a huge cedar in the boom, and he stopped and set her down.
They were exposed to the storm now. Water stung Marion’s face, and half of it was salt spray. The wind came in gusts against which she could not stand, and the log leaped and turned. She could not keep her footing with smooth soles. Again Eric picked her up.
“Cabin’s gone,” he shouted in her ear. “Big stick in the next section. I’ll take you to it.”
He staggered and stumbled in the darkness, ran over surging logs, finally reached his goal. The boom was crashing against the cliff.
“Chains can’t stand much of that.” Eric said in a lull between blasts. “But I’ve got to go. Lie down and hang on. It’s our only chance.”
The great log, ten feet in diameter, rose and fell, crunched and thudded against its fellows. Icy rain and cold spray soaked Marion’s clothing, but she did not feel it. Her whole being was devoted to lying asprawl the log and clinging to it with arms and legs and body.
Eric came back and sat down by her head. He removed his calked shoes, knotted the laces together and gave them to her to hold. He took off his oilskins and top shirt and wrapped them about her, tucked them in.
“I’m going now,” he shouted close to her ears. Must be near the point. Don’t move. \ou can t help.
She felt his hand on her shoulder, just a swift pressure, and she expected him to speak again. But in a moment she knew she was alone.
In sudden anguish she called Eric’s name, and the wind drove it back down her throat and drowned it in bitter salt spray.
The motion of the logs became more violent. Marion felt an increasing power as the big timbers thudded against each other. The great cedar on which she lay rolled terrifyingly, swooped and fell. And Eric was swimming in that sea.
Marion lifted her head, and salt spray blinded her. She turned it. and from beneath the shelter of the sou’wester she caught a glimpse of streaming silver fire on one side and of black darkness on the other. Eric, she knew, was somewhere beneath that ebon wall, struggling in the great seas, lighting shoreward. If he could know where shore lay !
The great log swooped up, swooped down. It weighed tons, and it was a chip. The wind ripped at her, and sometimes the blasts came like a club. A might of which she had never dreamed possessed the world. She remembered the thunder of the cedar which Eric had failed as being only a zephyr, its express train-rush as the swish of a toppled sapling. Here was power which no man could thwart.
And Eric Ware was seeking to do so. Marion remembered how he had guided the forest giant in its fall. He had removed the log from the Faraway’s stem as he would pull a sliver from the earth. He had carried her across the heaving timbers of the boom when she could not stand. Somehow, she believed, Eric Ware could do anything.
The storm beat upon her. The black night engulfed her. Spray and rain reached through to her numbed skin. The huge logs pitched and rolled with increasing violence. And yet she lay there with a strange sense of security. Eric would save her. He must. She could still feel that last touch of his hand on her shoulder.
A new movement came to the log on which she lay. It began to pitch as well as roll, in a peculiar serpentine movement. Solid water rolled the length of it and threatened to tear her loose.
Then the log ceased to roll. Even its pitching became less violent. She became aware that the terrifying thuds against the cliff had ceased. And. as if she had stepped inside a building, Marion felt a sudden cessation of driving rain and spray. She lifted her head, wiped the salt from her smarting eyes, and saw the silver glow of gale-tom waters almost within reach.
“Marion Bruce!” came Eric’s voice, and the fierce anxiety in it lifted her to her knees.
“Lie still,” he called when she had answered.
THE MOMENTUM of the boom had swung it around the point when the steel cable tightened to the strain, but getting the logs up to the beach was a question of sheer man power and ingenuity.
Eric toiled desperately, for he knew how cold and wet Marion must be, but it was half an hour before he had worked the sections to shore and made them fast temporarily.
Marion did not move. She could not. She was numb. Eric came walking across the great timbers in his bare feet and carried her ashore.
“Did your sou'wester blow off?” he asked, as he set her down.
Numb as she was, Marion laughed. “What a silly question !”
“It is not so silly,” he said. “There is a hole in the lining. I tucked a few matches in there when I tied it on your head. Thought it would be the driest place.”
“They are still there, though I can’t imagine their being dry,” came painfully through chattering teeth.
He advised her to dance and swing her arms. She heard him crashing through brush.
A half hour later they stixxi beside a big fire beneath an overhanging rock. The ground was dry. Rain did not reach them, and near by was a quantity of dry driftwood. Their clothes steamed. A short distance away the storm roared.
“Did you have a hard time reaching shore?” Marion asked.
“Don’t be modest, Eric. I am entitled to that story. I —I wasn’t very happy after you left me.”
“It was so close.” he said, “that I sang the first line of the Sword Song when I touched the beach. At least. I thought of singing it. I would only have bubbled salt water. And right now I'd be a lot happier if we had some fixxi.”
“You’re not fair, and I’m not hungry.”
“You will be before we are out of this. Sometimes these sou'easters last two or three days, and we can’t move until someone finds us.”
He kept the fire hxx>ming, and built a bed of dried leaves for Marion. The heat brought an overpowering drowsiness.
She remembered the roar of the storm in the blackness beyond the (ire. she remembered smiling at Eric. And then it was dawn.
The fire still burned, but its crackle was undisturbed by the beat of wind and wave. Beyond the flames, Marion could see clouds twining lazy fingers in the forest slopes. She arose, to find her clothing dry. Erie's steel-shod feet rasped rocks on the beach, and then he i>arted the brush and stood before her.
Marion did not speak. Her warm smile vanished. Never had she seen so bleak and drawn and terrible a face. Its very savagery held her dumb.
For a long time. Eric stixxi staring at the flames, warming his hands. His expression did not change. At last he spoke.
“I found the rowboat.”
Marion laughed, hysterically.
”It was swamped,” Eric continued without lix>king at her. and in the same empty voice. ”1 had put the oars under the seat. Still tied to the bixnnsticks. And (he boom chain didn't break. I found it hanging by the ring. The toggle had been slipped.”
His tone was savage now. He stared at the flames. And then, without looking up. he said :
“You would have been pounded to jelly. All those logs loose. Against the cliffs.”
“Eric!” she pleaded. “What are you talking about?’
"It was my fault,” he continued. “I should have watched. But I didn’t believe any man — ”
Marion found she could not speak. She did not know what he meant. She only knew that some terrible thing had happened, and that in Eric Ware had been unleashed a force more ruthless and more devastating than the gale which had died in the night.
“Come on.” he said. "I’ll prove it to you. I should have guessed it last night.”
He turned toward the water but she did not follow.
"F2ric.” she said, “tell me what you mean.”
"Taylor Hughes.” he answered without looking back. “He cut us loose last night.”
it with a stem look when she reached the rocky beach. “What are you going to do?" she asked. •
“I’m sure now,” he said. “I will be absolutely so when I go back to the point where the boom was.”
“But he wouldn’t do such a thing.”
Marion did not get into the boat. She stood looking at Eric. His expression had not changed, and she felt that behind it was a ruthless determination which would carry him anywhere.
"But nothing happened,” she said. “He failed.”
“You’re wasting breath.”
“And he’s gone now.”
“That’s what 1 don’t understand. The Faraway left before he could have done it. But I can follow him.”
THE LAST did not need an explanation. Marion shivered.
This was not the Eric Ware who liad come aboard the yacht to strike Taylor Hughes with ojien hands.
"You can’t talk me out of anything,” he said. "1 don’t care about myself. I'm willing to take my chances. But to cut you loose in that gale! He knew what would hapjien. He knew a log boom would not hold together. He knew you would be mashed to a jelly against the cliffs up the. inlet. He knew it, and he did it, and I'm going to kill him.”
Marion had known what was in his mind but the words stunned her.
"Do you think it was easy to leave you on those logs last night?” he demanded savagely. “I felt sure I could get to shore. But I wasn’t sure I could make the cable fast or that it would hold. I wasn’t sure the txxim would stay together until I could swing it into the shelter of the jxiint. I'm going to kill Hughes.”
"Eric,” she said, “you sjxike of our three glorious days together. We can have three thousand days like them. Are you going to sjxiil all that?”
“You can’t talk me out of this.”
“Last summer when I asked you to keep your hands off him, I was wrong. But I am right now. You can’t do this to ourselves, Eric. You haven’t the right to do it. to me.”
He swept an arm up the inlet. On the far shore the mountains rose straight from the sea, a mighty wall of rock.
“That is where you would have struck.” he exclaimed. "Hundreds of tons of cedar would have crashed into that cliff, and they would have ground you to a pulp.
I’ll go mad if I let myself think about it.
Get into the boat. I’m going down to the jxiint. I’m going to lie absolutely certain Hughes did this. I am going to show you. so you will have no doubts. And then I am going to Seattle to find him.”
Marion hesitated, and then she saw' a chance in what he had said. A broken boom chain would prove Eric was wrong.
A heavy sea fades quickly in the twisting inlets, and scarcely a swell remained from the violence of the night. Eric rowed, standing, jiushing on the oars, and Marion sat behind him. They rounded the jxiint. and before them stretched the high cliff against which they had been hurled in the darkness and the storm, against which the cabin float had been crushed.
A little beyond, a mountain thrust a shoulder into the inlet, and in a cove beneath it the logs had been mred.
Almost at once, Marion saw' the gas boat.
But Eric did not row toward it. A boom stretched out from shore, and at the end of the last stick there was an empty auger hole to be seen.
“This is where the Faraway tied up,” Eric said. “This is where the toggle was slijijxxl through.”
He rowed on to the rocky beach.
“That isn’t all,” he said. “I had made the last section fast to shore with a steel cable. If that cable had broken, one end would still be fast to the txxim. It isn’t. Here!”
The boat had grounded, and he stepjxxl out and lifted a heavy, twisted steel cable from the water. One end w'as fast to a great sjilinter of rock on shore. The end in the water had a spliced eye.
“Had a shackle in this eye." Eric said. “There it is," and he jxiinted at the bottom beneath the clear water. “Hughes unscrewed the pin, then slijijied a toggle in the boom.”
“But jierhaps the pin broke,” Marion said.
“All right. I want to convince you. That was a new shackle, and heavy. If the pin had broken, the screw' end would still be in place. It isn’t. The pin was unscrewed. Maybe we can find it.”
Ile jieered dowm from the boat, but the water deejiened quickly.
"Anyhow', Hughes would have tossed that away,”' Eric said, after a moment’s search. “I’ll show you.”
He worked the shackle into shallow water with an oar
and lifted it out, handed it to Marion and explained howr the pin was screwed in.
"Perhajis it was twisted out by the action of the waves,” Marion suggested. “The logs were in constant motion.” “Never in a few hours,” Eric retorted. “I made that fast just before dark last night. No. Either one alone would not be enough. But that toggle slipjied through the hole in the boom stick, then the pin unscrewed two things like that don’t hapjien. Hughes cut me loose last summer. It’s a sjiecialty of his, I should judge. And wre went adrift just a few minutes after the Faraway left last night.”
MARION did not comment. She was convinced, and she did not wish to be. She fought against conviction, yet she knew she could not argue against his knowledge of the tools w'ith which he worked.
Her one hojie lay in the fact that Taylor Hughes had dejiarted in his yacht, that days must elajise before Eric could overtake him.
“We’ll go aboard the gas boat,” Eric said. “Dave and Harold haven’t come back from Chance Cove, but their shack will be ojien and they’ll have plenty of grub.”
As he rowed out around the boom he stopjied and jiointed. “What I was afraid of last night,” he said. “Must have hapjiened when the gale was on and we didn’t hear it.” "What?” Marion asked as she stared up the inlet. “Landslide. See all that stuff floating? Mangled trees. Hundreds of them. Must have been just above the Secret Inlet entrance.”
“But the storm is over now.”
“And the snow is still up there above the clouds. A
He rowed on and heljied Marion aboard the gas boat, made the rowboat fast astern.
"She seems to have weathered it all right,” Eric said after a hurried inspection. “I’ll start the motor. No need of our staying here when there is a warm shack and food only a few miles away.”
He went down into the little cabin. Marion heard the snap of a priming can. She looked shoreward, tried to visualize the quiet water and rocky beach as the scene of the night’s turmoil. Now it was only a dreary, uninteresting cove beneath the dreary, low sky, with broken rocks at the water’s edge, then a steep slojie rising on either side of a straight wall of granite. Brush and boulders cluttered the base of this small cliff, and as Marion’s gaze swept carelessly along, it was halted by a thin streamer of smoke.
Nothing had ever brought such terror to Marion Bruce. It numbed her. She could not move. She could not alter the strained and hojieless expression of her face.
The motor started, and its ojien exhaust bombarded the cliff. Nerves snapjied and Marion leajied to her feet. She saw Eric staring at her from the cabin. She tried to break away from his gaze, and could not. She tried to smile, to
laugh, to talk of anything, and she only knew he had read her thoughts. Swiftly he stepjied on to the deck.
Marion, too, looked shoreward. She, too. saw the startled face of Taylor Hughes above the brush.
“Eric !” she whisjiered, but he only strode to the stem and bent to unfasten the row boat.
MARION stepjx'd across the deck and kicked Eric’s hands. She struck his face with her clenched fists. “You are mad, Eric Ware !” she cried. “You are wrecking two lives. Do you want me to hate you?”
“You would have been jxiunded to a jelly,” he said in a strained voice. "That soft body! I’ll go mad thinking about it."
“Do you want me to hate you?” she repeated fiercely. “Do you want me to go through life knowing you are in prison, or that you were hanged? Don’t I mean anything to you?”
“I told you that if Hughes came up here he had to play according to my rules. He played, and he lost. Now he’ll take his medicine.”
Eric arose, and they faced each other. His expression had not altered. A mad light still blazed in his eyes.
“All right,” she said quietly. “But first you must take me away from here. Taylor Hughes can’t escajie. Take me down to Dave Bartlett’s cabin. And don’t come back after me. Don’t ever come near me again.”
She strained with all her strength to make her voice harsh, and she wanted only that he should take her in his arms. The thought flashed that, after all. stress and the manifestation of titanic forces had been deep rooted in all their contacts. The falling of a forest giant, the first conflict with Taylor Hughes, the gale—all were a jiart of Eric Ware’s life, of his nature. It was his jxiwer and his comjietence, his vigor and indomitable spirit that had drawn her to him. It was not for her to define the limits of that vigor or that spirit.
Marion knew that her opjxisition and her threats were only a further test of his strength. She felt somehow that she had already lost. He was staring at her without softening.
The motor, which had been whanging away with its deafening noise, coughed, sjiat, died.
“I forgot to ojien the gas line,” Eric said in an empty voice, but he did not start toward the little cabin.
Both heard it. in the stillness that followed the last clamorous echo of the motor, heard a faint murmur that was like a soft breeze in the cedars.
Yet it was not like any sound that had ever come to Marion’s ears. It was soft and faint, barely noticeable, and it carried a note of terror and of terrible might. Instinctively, she looked up the mountainside.
The girl saw only the steep slojie, thick brush, the first tall trees rising into the clouds.
“Avalanche !” Eric whisjiered. “Straight above us.”
He leajied for the cabin door.
It was no longer a murmur, that sound up in the clouds. It grew to a roar with frightful rapidity. Marion stared ujiward, and could not reconcile the jieaceful scene, the lazy fingers of the clouds caressing the forest, with the awesome thunder above. The motor started, and its mechanical din w'as only a whisper.
Eric Ware sprang to the deck and cast off the lines. Marion shouted, and he gave no heed. She grasjied his arm and jiointed shoreward. Taylor Hughes had leajied out from the brush and was looking upward.
"Seconds!” Eric answered the plea in her eyes.
“We should try !”
The avalanche itself answered her. It was a mighty thunder, and a waterfall of fabulous volume, the blast of a typhoon and the simultaneous falling of a thousand giant trees. The roar of it boomed across the narrow inlet and doubled back from the opjiosite mountains, overwhelming and appalling. Eric kicked in his clutch, twisted the wheel, and water churned under the gas boat’s stem as he jerked ojien the throttle. He headed out into the inlet, but he was looking back and upward.
Eric Ware knew what was hapjiening up there above the jieaceful scene, above the clouds. Starting with a loosened boulder or bit of rain-soaked and snow-laden moss and earth, slipping from a precipitous slojie thousands of feet above the sea. it had begun slow'ly, unimpressively.
But wfith each yard of progress came added weight and faster descent. Small trees withstood those first shocks, but not a little way farther dowm. Great pieces of frost-riven granite were loosened. The earth slipjied free in sheets.
Continued on page 38
Continued from page 22
After a hundred yards the accumulated mass, weighing untold tons, was sweeping all before it. leaving an ever widening strip of white, clean granite.
THE less. MIGHT When it of struck the avalanche the giant was cedars gaugeon the lower slopes it hurled them down like hay before a scythe. The huge trunks were wrenched and twisted and splintered, the pieces ground by great boulders to stovewood size.
Eric Ware knewail this, and he pressed against the wheel as if his strength might increase the gas boat’s speed. He pressed wffth his whole weight, but he looked backward.
Marion Bruce could only guess what was happening above the clouds, and knowledge was not necessary. The inlet was crammed wffth thunder now. The roar of it was so tremendous that the cataclysmic nature of the avalanche was beaten into her senses.
But she did not look upward. She stared at the still, stricken figure of Taylor Hughes beneath the cliff, and wondered whether chance or unfathomable design had answered his act of the previous night. She wondered if this measureless might liad been unleashed to save Eric Ware from himself, to save their happiness. She even marvelled that she could think at all in the presence of such inexorable force.
Taylor Hughes remained motionless, staring upward, and then it seemed that the very roar itself had crushed him. He flung himself upon the ground. Marion could see him grovel. He beat the earth with his fists. He grasped brush and shook it. The appalling I roar reached a culmination and was re! doubled.
j It held Eric and Marion motionless and speechless, that unbelievably tremendous ! sound, and as they stared, as the thunder ! shook the very sea, it seemed that the i mountain itself had burst through the clouds directly above Taylor Hughes.
Cedars 200 feet high were engulfed by an overwhelming mass of rock and earth and snow. They were wrenched to slivers and ground to bits by the incalculable force, and their fragments became part of the resistless wave. Taylor Hughes, a mite beneath that surge, lay still.
Marion tore her gaze from the avalanche for an instant and saw only awe in Eric’s expression. The savagery was gone, and that unyielding stare. She looked back to the shore and beheld a miracle.
At the top of the little cliff the great bulk of earth and rock and snow and mangled trees split into twTo torrents. It reared and : demanded passage, but a granite spur of the I mountain remained unshakable. The solid I flood was parted directly above the still body on the beach and two streams roared on into the sea.
The gas boat was now well out. Marion i and Eric knew they were safe. A great cloud ¡of snow veiled the foot of the mountain. The gas boat kept on, with wide open throttle.
Out from the snow cloud swept a wall of water. Its crest was piled high with twisted tree trunks and branches. Eric watched it.
The debris fell behind and the great wave rolled toward them. Eric spun the wheel, turned the bow to meet it.
The little craft reared and lunged over the crest, fell into the trough beyond. It reared again on a smaller wave. Eric closed the throttle. The snow' cloud settled, and revealed a clean mountainside, white and bare. It revealed a great mass of debris rising and faffing on the swell, and already beginning to disintegrate and spread out.
And on shore it revealed Taylor Hughes, still lying beneath the cliff, still motionless.
The barking of the motor made itself heard in a deathly silence. Again Marion looked at Eric. His face was washed clean of harshness and violence. Beyond him. less than a mile away, was the Faraway coming toward them up the inlet.
Eric looked when she pointed, then opened the throttle slightly and the gas boat started toward the beach. Carefully it w'orked a way through the mangled trees. Eric stepped out on a rock, made the bow line fast, helped Marion ashore. Together they climbed to where Taylor Hughes lay, face dow'n.
“Are you hurt?” Eric asked.
Hughes did not answer. Eric turned him over and a w'hite face showed behind a black stubble of beard. Eric walked back to the beach, filled his sou’wester with water and dashed it over Hughes’ face.
The man gasped and opened his eyes. The eyes stared w'ildly, and they did not see. His entire body trembled. Eric lifted him to his feet.
“The Faraway is coming,” the handlogger said. “I’ll put you aboard.”
ALL THREE started down to the beach.
, Still Hughes did not see Marion or Eric. He walked in a trance. His knees shook, his hands trembled violently.
“Has he gone mad?” Marion whispered. “Just scared,” Eric answered. “He’ll be sane, saner perhaps than he ever was before.”
They walked on to the gas boat, Hughes stumbling between them.
“I would have killed him,” Eric said. “Just killed him. Jeff Thatcher’s ‘Almighty’ saved him, and me, and handled the job more beautifully.”
He helped the trembling man aboard, then turned and looked at Marion.
“I’ll never forget this, Marion Bruce,” he said. “Never.”
They threaded slowly through the wreckage and came alongside the Faraway.
"What’s been happening?” two men demanded together as they leaned over the rail.
“A chunk of mountain tumbled into the salt chuck,” Eric answered. “Just missed your owner.”
“Hit the log boom and the shack, eh?” “No, I took them away. Why did you leave last night?”
“The old man told us to. Said he’d stay with you. Said you w'ere afraid to have the yacht tied to the boom. Said it might tear the boom loose.”
Eric looked at Taylor Hughes. The
yachtsman’s eyes told that he understood, but he did not speak.
“Yes, you might have tom us loose," Eric said quietly. “I guess that’s all. Get aboard, Hughes."
Hughes wavered. His slack lips stiffened, as if he would speak, but no words came. Marion had never seen a man so completely broken. He did not look at her, and after a moment his trembling legs took him up the accommodation steps.
“Look like you’d been to hell and back,” the Faraway’s engineer gasped.
“Where to now?” another man asked.
Hughes did not answer but stumbled away to the deck house.
“Seattle,” Eric Ware said.
The yacht drew away and soon was fleeing down the inlet. Eric and Marion watched it in silence for a while. At last the handlogger kicked in the clutch and the gas boat followed. The Faraway turned a point after a few' minutes. Because of its greater speed, and the twists in the mountain-walled inlet, they did not see it again.
Marion stood on the afterdeck behind Eric. She looked back to where the débris of the avalanche littered the sea, and to where the raw w'ound stood out white on the mountainside. The sea stretched on, past the entrance to Secret Inlet. Clouds stiff formed a low roof. The big inlet was like a tunnel, grey and desolate and threatening.
But when the gas boat chugged around the point she found the clouds were higher and lighter. Suddenly the sun found a hole and struck through to the sombre green of the forest. A waterfall leaped from the edge of a cliff and shattered itself to billowing vapor in the drop to the sea. The sun found another hole, and picked out the little birthday-cake island the Faraway had passed the previous summer, when Marion was alone in the w'heelhouse with Taylor Hughes.
She looked at Eric. He stood at the wheel. His shoulders were stoojjed a little. His head had swung forward. His whole body lacked that expression of vigor and competence.
“I want to leam to steer a boat,” she said.
She looked up into his face, her own aglow, and she wormed her way between him and the wheel, her back to it.
Eric stared at her.
“You mean—” he began.
The word w'as unnecessary. Her eyes, her parted lips, the swift rush of breath, told it all. Both Eric’s hands came away from the spokes and he crushed her to him.
The power of the tide, of a falling tree, of a gale, of an avalanche, all became puny. She had alw'ays know'n it would be like this w'hen it came. Her face was buried in a rough woollen shirt, and the roughness thrilled her.
After a moment Marion saw', from the comer of an eye, that the gas boat was headed straight for the beach. She laughed happily, and closed her eyes.
And after a moment one of the steel arms about her loosened, and she felt the wheel turn against her back. The shore sw’ung away.
“Marion Bruce ! Marion Bruce !” sounded in a husky whisper near one ear.