Waste on the Waters
BERTRAND W. SINCLAIR
AN INCH and a quarter stream of oilstained water spurted in jets from the Jongleur’s side. In the engine room. Mark O’Brien’s arm rocked back and forth on the handle of a bilge pump. For a week he had been doing that just before he turned into his bunk and starting the same again first thing when he rose in the morning, and too frequently between times as he plowed from one task to another. The Jongleur leaked badly. Somewhere below the scarred turn on her bilge she had spat her calking, to open a seam and let water in where no water should be. She had been battered and twisted by the short, steep Gulf seas for weeks without respite. P. B. Doan’s woods boss had kept driving Mark from one job to another in spite of Mark’s protest that he had to beach the Jongleur for an overhaul.
“If you can’t keep the dam crate afloat, let her sink,” Bill Murray had said. “We'll get a camp tender that can do the job.”
That would have been all very well if the boat had been P. B. Doan’s property. But the Jongleur was Mark’s livelihood. and it was a contract job. He knew why Murray drove him like that. The boat had to go on the grid soon because of that leak, no matter what Murray said or thought, Mark reflected, or one of these days, laboring heavy-loaded in the Gulf, she might begin to take more water than the pump could handle, and then good-by Jongleur.
He watched the bilge water sink away from the lower rim of the flywheel. The pump sucked air. Mark put his head out a window. Oil spread in rainbow circles on the water by the float. A tall man in calked.boots and stagged-off pants, a good-looking blonde man with an unpleasant twist to his mouth, stood on the float. A girl was coming down from the clutter of rough buildings ashore, her skirt fluttering in the wind that also fluttered the sea outside Thunder Bay.
“Some of these days you'll need two pumps to keep the Gulf out of her,” Murray drawled unpleasantlv.
It was on the tip of Mark’s tongue to retort, “For w-hich you would shed no tears.” But he only grunted, “Well?" Mark O'Brien never had much to say, and sometimes his silences fooled more observing people than Bill Murray.
“When you can get that decrepit mill rolling, go up to Camp Two and bring a load of boom chains,” Murray said curtly.
Mark nodded. Under cover of badinage Bill Murray was sneering at the Jongleur, hull, motor and master. Mark bided his time and kept his temper. He had to take orders from Murray, but one of these days ! “That decrepit mill" was a thirty-horse, heavy-duty engine, practically new. The Jongleur was staunch and able. Any forty-footer that continually bumped logs around booming grounds the seven-ton fir toothpicks of the British Columbia woods — was bound to start a seam. Some of these days, Mark thought as he looked out that w-heelhouse window, he would probably loosen a seam in Mister Murray.
“I’ve got a cylinder head off.” said Mark. "Ill be ready in half an hour.”
“Step on it,” Murray growled.
SHERRY DOAN came hurrying along the float. Mark kept his red head framed in the window-, watching her approach. All the old props, thought Mark, were here assembled. The jealous, arrogant villain, the poor but honest hero, at odds over the charming daughter of the timber baron.
Only P. ÏL Doan was no longer a timber baron. P. B. was just getting by these days, with fir selling at little above cost of production and cedar languishing in a dull market. P. B. w-as a worried logger, and his daughter bore a worried look. too. as she came up to her father’s logging boss and the skipper of the camp-tending motor boat.
“Chuck’s worse,” Sherry said abruptly. "He had a bad night. I think we better do something.”
She stood with hair and skirt w-hipping in the breeze coming gusty from outside, a small dark person in w-hom a natural vivacity seemed to have died. She spoke to Bill Murray, but her eyes w-ere on Mark O’Brien. Mark climbed out on the float.
“Just what do you think ails him that makes you so uneasy?” Mark asked.
"Hr has a i^ain I don’t like,” Sherry said. "In the abdomen, and he’s running a fever. It might possibly lie appendicitis.”
"I better go take a look at him." Mark said after a second or two. "I took a ample of years medicine Ixdore I went beachcombing."
“Doctor O’Brien will leave the bedside of one patient to examine another." Murray drawled. "Better take your bilge pump along. Mark."
"Better not try so hard to be funny." Mark answered quite casually. "1 happen to be qualified to say whether a man is suffering from a simple tummy ache or something serious.”
"All right, only don’t prolong the diagnosis." Murray grumbled. ”1 need those boom chains this afternoon."
"Let's go." Mark said to the girl.
They went up the float. On the steep shore tiered with green forest lifting to a mountain sloi>e. the raw wooden buildings of a logging camp huddled lieside the skidroad. P. B. Doan, Sherry and Chuck Doan lived in a frame shack on skids a little ajwrt from mess house and bunkroom. A Washington roader stood within a hundred feet of the house, hissing live steam, and a mile of stad cable ran chattering into the woods. 1’. B.’s logs came down to tidewater through the very dooryard.
"I wish dad was home,” Sherry said as they crossed the threshold.
Mark didn’t say anything. Ile stotxl over Chuck Doan, who was nineteen, lean, tough and wiry, and had never bam sick a day in his energetic young life. Chuck’s face was Hushed now. his dark eyes pretematurally bright. Mark didn't ask any questions, lie sat down and began to explore with deft lingers along the boy’s right side. Presently Chuck flinched sharply. Again Mark applied a poking forefinger on one particular sixit. and this time Chuck yelped.
Mark stood up. Sherry looked her anxiety.
"Hospital and surgeon for him,” Mark said. “Quick as the Ixird will let us get him there."
“1 was afraid of that." Sherry murmurai. “You’re sure. Mark?”
"If I had a professional reputation. I’d stake it."
"It's blowing.” Sherry turned to the window. “But you can go around the north end of Nelson and stay inside."
Mark shook his head.
“It’s Powell River or bust." said he. “The Pender Harbor
sawbones went to town on the steamer yesterday while 1 was there.”
“Oh.” Sherry said uneasily. "It'll lie tough on Chuck, rolling in that sCa. But we'd better get going."
"(»et a camp cot ready to pack him on. if there’s one around." Mark said. "I've got about half an hour’s work on my engine. I’ll shout when I’m through."
He went back to the Jongleur. Murray was sitting on an empty gas drum on the float.
“That kid’s got to get to a hospital.” Mark told him. "So your boom chains will have to wait."
"All that young squirt's got is a stomach ache." Murray grumbled.
"Your stomach would ache if you had what he’s got." Mark replied. “There's no time to lose. Would you mind giving me a hand to bolt on this cylinder head?"
MARK O’BRIEN hated to ask Murray to help him. but time must be saved. Outside the south born of Thunder Bay. a dark swell, white tipped, troubled the mouth of Jervis Inlet. Beyond, in tbc o|xm (Juif of Georgia, greybearded seas rose and fell, glittering in the sun. Toxada kxjnied greenish blue, splitting the Gulf with its wooded height. In between lay miles of sea. now being harried by a rising southeast wind. And Mark bad to transport a sick man over that, in a boat that would need a hand on the bilge pump when she began to labor among those foaming crests and dark green hollows.
"You better come along." Mark said abruptly when the last nut was tight. It was an effort to make that suggestion. "I need somebody.”
“1 will, like fun.” Murray snarled. “P. B. doesn’t pay me to go joy-riding. You bave no business going anyway."
“Send one of the loggers, then." Mark countered. "I got to have somebody. With a sick man and a woman on board and a sea running. I’m liable to have my hands full."
“Nary logger." Murray refused. “And Sherry isn’t going on that seaweed strainer of yours in a southeaster. I won’t let her.”
"If it isn’t safe for her. where docs Chuck come in?” Mark asked slowly. ‘‘She can swim like a fish. The kid is too sick to lift a hand."
"Then you and him can sink or swim together." Bill Murray replied with a curl of his upper lip. “I wouldn’t miss either one of you."
Mark straightened up from his engine.
"I ought to sock you for a crack like that." he said slowly. "Sock away.” Murray thrust his chin aggressively. "Nobody’s boldin’ you."
"Not yet." Mark said quietly. “You’ll keep.”
He bent dow n again to gather up loose tools. When he straightened up to stowthem in a locker, Murray had put away a wad of oily cotton waste with which be had been wiping his hands. He stood puffing a cigarette. Mark couldn't trust himself to bandy more words with Bill Murray. Murray was a go-getter in the woods. P. B. Doan thought the sun revolved around bis boss logger because Bill could get logs into the water like nobody’s business. But Mark O’Brien could see things around that camp that P. B. never saw. Sometimes Mark wondered if Sherry saw them too. But when your living and the welfare of other people depend on holding a certain job. you don't thumb your nose at the boss unless you just have to.
When Mark turned his head he saw Sherry looking through a window. Murray had turned to go out the after com pan ion wav. Mark nodded at Sherry, a mute signal that he was ready. And as soon as he had cleaned his hands with some gasoline, he followed her and Murray up the float.
Sherry and Bill were disputing something, and Murray looked rather sour when Mark reached the Doan house. Murray followed Sherry into the kitchen and Mark could hear the murmur of their voices. I íe shrugged his shoulders, called the cook from his range and a man from the blacksmith shop to stand by. Sherry came into the bedroom as Mark entered.
“Bill says it’s crazy to try and make Powell River with that southeaster working up. and the Jongleur leaking like a basket.” she appealed uneasily to Mark. ‘‘What about it?”
“All boats leak more or less." Mark answered casually enough, although lie was boiling inside as a man does when another man belittles bis judgment and his efforts. “You’re the doctor, though. Sherry. I’m ready to go."
"I’m not afraid of the (Juif, although you know what a heavy sea sometimes does to me.” Sherry said. “I’m thinking about Chuck.”
“So am IMark answered. “I wouldn’t go out there and take a bumping in a leaky boat if 1 wasn’t thinking about him."
“Well, what do you think?” Sherry persisted.
“I think.” Mark said deliberately, "that if Chuck Doan isn't on an operating table inside of twelve hours lie's a gone goose. Is that plain enough?”
“Plenty. Let's go." Sherry whispered. "I didn’t think it was as bad as that."
Bearing a stretcher gently, they carried Chuck Doan to the boat and got him into a bunk. Mark started his engine. Sherry leaned out a window speaking to Bill Murray, as
Mark signalled the blacksmith to cast off his bow line.
“You’d better come with us. Bill,” Sherry said.
A startled look crossed Murray’s face. He shook his head.
"I couldn’t do any good,” said he. “If I’m not on the job the timber doesn’t come dowm. Personally I’m against you going either.”
“I have to go,” Sherry said impatiently, “Chuck -”
“Out of the way, you big cheese !" Mark snarled and shouldered Murray aside from the cleat that held his spring line. "It’s bad enough without you trying to scare her."
He stepped aboard with the coil of rope in his hand as Murray snapped an oath at him.
"I ll talk to you when l get back,” Mark yelled from the wheelhouse window, and shoved his clutch into reverse.
Sherry came up out of the cabin as they gathered way.
"What’s the matter with you and Bill?" she asked sharply. "Why were you snarling at him?”
"Just a difference of opinion," Mark told her. He looked down at P. B. Doan’s daughter. Her small, dark head came scarcely to his shoulder. Sherry looked worried. She was troubled about her brother. And Mark knew that, although she had been bred on the British Columbia coast and could swim like a duck, she hated rough water, because if the heave lasted long enough it made her sick. "Murray thinks I’m a false alarm,” he said. “Oh, wfell. Better stay with the patient. Fix him so he won’t roll out of the bunk. We’re going to get bumped when we clear Scotch Fir."
They were getting bumped long before they cleared that rocky headland. The southeast swell met the outgoing tide from Jervis Inlet to lift marching rollers. Tho Jongleur made graceful nodding gestures to these at tirst, then she began to plunge. Then the wind hit her and brought spray aboard. Finally she was taking it green over her stemhead. Mark swayed at the steering wheel, turning now' and then to jiggle the handle of his bilge pump, jxering through a gap in the floorboards to see how fast she shipped water by the keelson.
Apart from that leak, the Jongleur was equal to anything that ever blew' in the Gulf. Knowing that, Mark tried to save Sherry Doan and his sick passenger as much discomfort, as he could. Normally he would have given Scotch Fir Point a dose berth, taking that southeast sea on the beam. The Jongleur would have wallowed in the short, steep trough, rolling her guardrail under at times. She was built and trimmed for that sort of going.
Instead, he kept her bow quartering into the sea until he was two miles out in the Gulf, sliding up and, plunging down over greybeard seas that rose higher and broke more sharply
the farther offshore he plowed. Eventually he could turn tail to that and run straight off before it, clear to the lee of Grief Point. Twenty-seven miles of troubled water with a freshening wind, a summer wind with the ixffenlial strength of a winter gale.
The Jongleur lifted on a crest, freed herself of a boarding sea, s wo pixel into a green hole and got her forward deck awash again. Mark was
watching for a good smooth to turn on. Tide working against the run of the sea made a chop that would put him on his beam ends if he were caught broadside on. Preparatory to that manoeuvre he took a look down in the bilge and caught his breath. Spray above and leaky seams below had lifted water afxve the keelson with sinister swiftness in the last few minutes.
He reached for thehandleof the pump. He could work it after a fashion and steer tt»o. lie nad to clear tile bilge before he turned. In a following sea. her stern would rise steeply at times and the water inside would surge forward. If it touched that spinning flywheel! There would be a circular spray that would short his ignition and stop the motor dead.
He pumped. By all precedent, ten minutes should have cleared that bilge. The water did not lower a fraction. If anything, it gained. There
was a strong suction on the pump, but the level below crept higher. Mark's heart gave an uneasy flutter. Far offshore, and water coming in faster than he amid pump it out. He couldn’t use both hands and pump fast. And he had to pump fast.
He hopped off the steering j>latform before the engine and yanked ojxm the cabin door. Chuck lay in a bunk, holding to a strap on the bulkhead. Sherry was bent over the galley sink, her face ghastly.
"You got to come and steer," Mark said. "I have to pump. Be game.”
A LURCH of the unhelmed ship made him reel.
He leaped back to his post. Sherry Doan came staggering forward. Mark helped her up and clamped her lingers on the sjx>kes.
‘‘Keep her quartering into 'em,” he said briefly, above the roar of the exhaust and the boom of the wind and sea —and flew at the wing pump with both hands. He had to get that water down.
Over his shoulder as he thrust that handle back and forth, he glanced at Sherry. So sick that her whole physical being revolted, she held the Jongleur's head up, meeting those big seas at an angle. Her head swayed with the violent motion. Once or twice as the Jongleur swooped and buried her stem and an oncoming sea reared up to break, Sherry ducked as a lighter ducks a punch. They looked fearsome, curling up to fall on the forward deck with a thud and a swoosh.
Mark sawed that handle back and forth till the ixilms of his hands grew hot and blisters rose. The bilge water gained. Kept gaining.
Until at last a combined pitch and roll dipped the rim of the flywheel in that dirty slosh below, and immediately the engine room became a shower bath.
It sprayed distributor and spark plugs. The motor conked, stuttered and died with an asthmatic wheeze. Sherry turned her head with a startled cry. Caught by the screaming wind, the Jongleur's head fell off into the trough. She rolled to weather and snapped back to lee with a dead, sickening lurch. Something thumped on the cabin floor. Mark knew that Chuck I )oan had been thrown out of his bunk.
1 le helped Sherry down, clawed with her back into the cabin. They had to hold tight with one hand to keep their feet. Mark hauled a mattress off the bunk, settled Chuck on that, and piled blankets over him.1 He could hear the bilge water swsh ominously at every roll, under the floorboards.
“Lie beside him on the floor and stay there." Mark instructed Sherry. “I’ll get her straightened out." “Can you get that engine going?” Sherry gasjxxl. "Sure."
But he was not SÍ) sure as he made his tone sound.
Those seams! He cursed Bill Murray for driving him daily on ftless errands instead of letting him take lime off to fix them, lie cursed himself for letting Murray drive him. He cursed the wind and the sea, the Jongleur rolled till everything loose in her seemed come adrift and clatter. She took no water now over her topsides. Unless her whole bottom had opened up. he should able to lower that bilge in short order, But he didn't even hold his own.
Sweating, arms aching from t he strain of rapid movement, suddenly slopped pumping. He remembered some-
tiling. There was too much suction. I le chanced a breaking sea, and o|x*ned a window to look at the discharge while he worked the pump handle rapidly. The outgoing stream was only a trickle instead of the full diameter of an inch and a quarter pi|e.
He drop|x*d to his knees, moved a Ikxir board, plunged his arm to the elbow in that mess of oil-scummed water, and groped with exploring lingers for the strainer over the bilge intake.
I le grunted. His hand came up with a hunk of saturated waste. He groped again and got another handful. He rested on his knees for a few seconds, staring at that mess of cotton waste, a strange look on his face. The cabin door opened. Sherry, on her knees, looker! through at him.
"1 couldn’t hear anything for a minute.” she faltered.
"I was fishing.” Mark said. "The bilge strainer was blocked.”
“With that?" She looked
Continued on page 37
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at the wet. oily blob of stuff by his knees.
“With that,” Mark said shortly. “Shut the door. I'll have her clear pretty quick.”
He turned to his pump again. There was a slightly different feel, a different sound. He lunged on the handle and the level of his bilge shrank below the flywheel in five minutes.
Mark smiled when the top of the keelson came clear. He had that beaten. He glanced out a window. The drift of the southeast wind bore the Jongleur in toward the mainland shore—a place of boulders like monster eggs, where one bump would finish them. But he had a lot of room under his lee yet.
So he sat down to dry off his sparking apparatus. He was just about ready to take his starting bar in hand when Sherry put her head in again.
“We'll be on the beach in five minutes.” she cried. “If we hit, Chuck hasn’t a chance. Oh, do something!”
“I’ve done it,” he said—and pulled the flywheel over.
Sherry Doan’s sigh of relief was swallowed up in the clack of valves.
“Everything’s okay,” Mark said. “Stay with Chuck. I’ve got her. ”
“TAIL TO WIND and sea, the Jongleur I wallowed up the Gulf. She was a steady runner. She didn’t yaw and she didn’t roll much. She swooped and soared and did two knots over her normal speed. Mark kept an eye on the bilge. But he didn’t have to worry. A few quick strokes on that pump handle and the water shrank. Whenever he glanced back at his bilge he saw that bunch of cotton waste and scowled.
They cleared Grief Point and got in a lee. The massed pulp mills of Powell River loomed ahead. Sherry Doan came forward.
“I guess I’m a bum sailor,” she said. “I was so sick, and scared stiff besides.”
“You did your job,” Mark said. ‘Tve seen men who didn’t stand up so good in that kind of going.”
Sherry looked down.
“She isn’t taking so much water now,” she remarked thoughtfully.
“Just as much, which is not so much after all.” Mark replied. “The pump was clogged with that cotton waste.”
“The bilge of a boat is no place for cotton waste,” Sherry Doan observed.
“Accidents will happen in the best regulated bilges,” Mark returned.
After a lapse of minutes Sherry spoke again.
“I’m glad Bill didn’t come along,” said she. “He hasn't very good sea legs either.”
“Yeah?” Mark looked down at her and his mouth twisted a little. “Yeah, maybe it’s just as well Bill didn't come along.”
“You say that sort of funny, Mark,” Sherry declared. “What—”
“Believe it or not,” Mark laughed. “I didn’t mean to be funny. No. Say, after all that excitement, how about a cup of tea? Just about time before we dock. You take her. I’ll put Chuck back in his bed and light the galley stove.”
They finished tea and bread and jam while standing at the wheel, took their last sip just as the Jongleur slid in beside the government dock. The pulp company’s town maintained a first-class hospital but no ambulance. Chuck and Sherry went uptown in a black sedan to the residential area beyond the concrete paper mills that lined the waterfront.
Mark stood staring at the Jongleur. He was due back at P. B. Doan’s camp. He had performed his errand. And he was not worrying about the turbulent Gulf. He had coped with that before. He stood on the dock, thinking. Then he went aboard into the engine room. He stood for a minute wrinkling his brows over that sodden heap of cotton waste. He poked at it with his foot. Then he started the motor and backed clear of the wharf.
The tide was on the ebb. Three hundred yards east of the dock a sloping gravel beach lay inside the company breakwater. Mark grounded the Jongleur there, standing by to shore her upright as the tide fell.
When the keel bared he went over her bottom, and found the authentic source of that slow leak—two open seams. One hour with caulking iron, cotton, putty and copper paint, made those seams tight. Then Mark shaved, dressed and sauntered up into Powell River, where there was everything that normally went with a 6.000 population, for all this great pulp paper town lay on the coast seventy-odd miles from railhead so that everything and everyone that came and went was sea-borne.
He found the hospital and learned that
Sherry had gone to a hotel after —a nurse told him —an immediate operation on Chuck. Oh, yes, appendicitis. 1 atient doing nicely—the usual professional assurance that all was well. Mark knew Chuck would scarcely be out of the ether yet. But it was something to have his semi-amateur diagnosis confirmed. So Mark didn’t disturb Sherry until toward evening.
She knew scarcely anyone in Powell River, nor did Mark. They visited the hospital, left Chuck resting easily, had dinner together and together watched a flicker drama in the local cinema.
“Good night,” Mark said at the hotel steps. "The packet will be afloat. I’ll be seein’ ya.”
"Thanks a lot,” said Sherry.
"All in the day’s work,” Mark answered lightly.
HE TIED UP beside the government dock again. By the rules governing his job. he should have gone rolling home. But Mark wanted to land there in daylight, for reasons of his owm. He valued his job, but also he had a hunch that his tenure of the Doan job neared its close. He couldn’t help it. It had to be that way.
A Vancouver steamer whistled her way at close to midnight. Still wakeful, Mark went up on the wharf to watch her land. A large, rotund man waddled down the gangplank, looked at Mark in the electric glare and spoke.
"How’s beachcombing?” Sam Gordon asked after a word or two.
"Quit beachcombing a year ago,” Mark answered. “I’m tending camp for Doan.” “Got the old crate here?” Gordon enquired.
"How about ten bucks to run me across to Van Anda?” the big man wheezed. “Right now. Have to hire a launch in the momin’. You might as well make the money."
"Okay by me,” Mark grinned.
So in the little hours of the morning they rolled across the still uneasy Gulf to Van Anda, where Gordon ojie rated a one-horse sawmill. They moored to a float by the mill on the beach, and Gordon sat on a bunk while Mark O’Brien made toast and coffee.
“I got another plant goin’.’’ Gordon said as they ate. "Shingle mill on the Fraser River. Looks like I might make some money this summer. Know where there’s any good cedar that could be got easy?”
“Huh?” Mark stared. He knew Sam Gordon well. Sam was one of those men who seem ordained to make a material success in a modest way out of the most unpromising materials. And Mark knew about some cedar.
“How much can you use and about what can you pay for it?” he asked.
"I could use a hundred thousand feet a month for four or five months.” Gordon stated. “Around eight dollars a thousand.” "You guarantee that amount and price?” “Yeah. I guess 1 can. Sure. I’ll make it a contract with anybody that’ll guarantee delivery.” Gordon nodded.
“Your word’s okay with me," Mark said. “I’ll let you know positive in two or three days. Don’t make any contract for cedar until you hear from me, will you, Sam?” “No rush.” Gordon agreed. “I’ll hold off.
I can always buy job lots in the open market.”
"Where’ll you be for the next while?"
"Here for three days. After that, Texada Shingle Mill. Ebume. will get me.”
"A hundred thousand average cedar a month, for four months at eight dollars a thousand?” Mark repeated.
Gordon nodded assent.
“The contract’s yours, son, if you think you can make anything fillin’ it,” said he.
“I can get it filled," Mark replied. "Thanks, Sam."
When the sun lit the Coast Range the Jongleur was on a long slant across the Gulf of Georgia. Mark looked down into his bilge now and then. Bone-dry. Mark smiled. Some men can esteem a boat as other men love a dog.
He laid the Jongleur alongside the Doan
float about twelve-thirty. Men were popping out the mess-house door. Mark flipped mooring lines over cleats, and went striding up into the camp. He had on a pair of grey flannel slacks and rubber-soled sneakers. In one hand, curiously, he carried a blob of wet. oily waste. When he came up to the bunch of loggers waiting for the one o’clock donkey whistle he asked :
As if speaking of the devil brought the proverbial result, Bill Murray came around a comer.
“You took your time,” he growled. “Why weren’t you back last night?”
“I’m back soon enough to suit you, I guess,” Mark said calmly. “And I brought you a present—this.”
Mark held out that bunch of sodden waste. For a second Murray looked startled, then his lip curled in a contemptuous smile.
Mark O’Brien threw that mess of cotton waste, foul with engine oil and bilge water, in Bill Murray’s face.
“Laugh that off,” said he.
Murray wiped it off. He shook his head, making noises like an angry bull. And when he had cleared his eyes with a handkerchief he came at Mark, swinging both hands, spitting foul language.
Which was a fatal mistake. Mark backpedalled two or three steps and Murray gathered momentum. Then Mark ducked under that wild swinging. He straightened Murray on his heels with a wicked uppercut, and knocked him down with a right hook that had a hundred and seventy pounds of angry Irishman behind it. And so battle, as the historians say, was joined. The gory details may be left to surmise. In that shady place between two logging camp buildings, it took Mark O’Brien about five or six minutes to properly smear Bill Murray.
P. B. ’s logging boss was rough and tough and game. With a dozen loggers standing in a silent circle, he did his best. It was pretty fair—in fact, good-but not good enough. Bill went down finally, to stay down, and he wasn’t pretty to look at when the loggers helped him up.
MARK VOLUNTEERED no explanations. He left Murray to the ministrations of the loggers he had lorded it over in the woods, and went back to the Jongleur. He had some nasty abrasions and a lot of blood on his own face to wash off.
Thither, while Mark got cleaned up, came P. B. Doan, almost literally foaming at the mouth. P. B. had somehow got back from Vancouver. It seemed to be a day of unleashed tempers and hot words, Mark thought.
"You’ll start no more fights around here, O’Brien,’’ Doan shouted. “You beat up a better man than you’ll ever be.”
“Yeah.” Mark replied. “That’s what he thought, too.”
"You’re through in this camp,” P. B. yelled at him.
"I’ve got about a hundred dollars coming,” Mark said quietly. "I’ve got a verbal contract with you for the season. But we’ll let that ride. Pay me off and I’ll be on my
“You’re takin’ me to Powell River right now.” Doan told him angrily. "You’ll get paid off when you bring me back. Why didn’t Sherry and Chuck come back with you?”
Mark looked at the angry logging operator for a few seconds.
“Didn’t your good man Friday tell you why we went to Powell River in that blow?” Mark asked.
“Bill said Chuck was feelin’ bum an’ wanted to see a doctor,” Doan snapped. “But that kid can use any old excuse to get to a town. He ain’t really sick, is he?” “They operated on him for appendicitis half an hour after I landed him,” Mark said slowly. “He was a pretty darned sick kid. Naturally Sherry is staying there till he’s past the danger point.”
The anger faded out of Doan like a blown candle flame. He ran his fingers through a thick shock of iron-grey hair.
“Hell’s hinges!” he groaned. “If there’s any bad breaks, the Doan family ’ll get ’em.”
“It could be worse,” Mark said. “The kid’ll be okay.”
“And I was goin’ boilin’ up to Fowell River to bawl ’em out.” Doan muttered. “Now, I got to go.”
“I’m ready,” Mark said briefly. He reached for his mooring lines and Doan got aboard.
The Jongleur hit her eight-knot gait over a ger^’ /ell. P. B. stood beside Mark at the wheeTTor a while, looking worried and unhappy. Then he sat down at a table in the cabin and sat pencilling sheets of paper with figures, and continued to look even more worried and unhappy. He didn’t open his mouth again until they tied to the dock at Powell River, then he said:
“I want to be fair, but things are tough and I got to get results or go under. You an’ Bill Murray have been at loggerheads for weeks. He’s a valuable man to me in my business. You’ve bunged him up so he won’t be able to look at a log for ten days. You’ve started the kind of trouble that’ll break out again if I keep you around. And I’ve got troubles enough in my business without that kind. So here’s your money to date. You don’t need to wait around to take me back to camp.”
Mark watched his late employer stride up the dusty road. That was that. He looked at his bruised knuckles. At least he had got some personal satisfaction, even if he had got edged out of the Doan sphere—which was what Bill Murray had been angling for, fer a long time.
Then Mark, looking across at the high green mountain range lifting above blue water behind Van Anda, remembered something he had meant to tell P. B. Doan. For a rr.inute he was tempted to let it slide. He was fired. Why bother? And then—well. Mark wanted to be fair, too, even if he was \oung and reckless and redheaded and Irish, with no notion of turning the other cheek. He knew more about the state of P. B. Doan’s logging business than P. B. suspected.
SO HE CHANGED his stained clothes and sauntered uptown. He surmised that P. B. would come back to the hotel after visiting the hospital. When Mark did finally enter the hotel lobby, P. B. was sitting in a leather chair brooding over a cigar. Mark walked up to him.
“There was something I forgot to tell you,” said he, “when you landed on me with your hackles up. You’re just getting by and no more on the fir you’re putting in the water. You have about a hundred thousand feet of cedar in the boomsticks. In that big gulch north of camp there is nearly half a million more cedar that you could yard right into the chuck at low cost if you could sell it.”
P. B. looked at Mark for a second with a curious intentness.
“Well?” said he.
“I met Sam Gordon yesterday,” Mark continued. “He has got hold of a small shingle mill on the Fraser. He will take a minimum of a hundred thousand average cedar a month for the next four or five months at eight dollars a thousand. He said he’d make a contract. He’s over at Van Anda right now. You could make a deal with him that’ll show you a little profit on the cedar, and fir prices may pick up. Keep you going on the right side of the ledger for awhile, anyway.”
P. B. continued to stare at him.
“You seem to know something about amber and markets and my private business,” he observed thoughtfully, “as well as the difference between a bellyache and an inflamed appendix.”
“I have a head,” Mark replied. “And I use it for something besides a place to hang my hat.”
“Huh,” Doan grunted. “You just come up from the boat?”
“No. I’ve been poking around town for an hour,” Mark replied. “Why?”
"Oh. nothing. Thanks for this tip about the cedar.”
“That’s all right,” Mark declared. “I
have no timber to sell. I just thought I’d pass it along.”
P. B. leaned forward.
“Just why did you pick a hunk of dirty waste up from the Jongleur to throw in Bill Murray’s face?” he asked abruptly.
Mark stood up.
“You wouldn't believe me if I told you,” he said with a trace of heat. "And since he’s a valuable employee, I don’t know that 1 care to start undermining your confidence in him. You can ask Bill Murray himself, w-hen you get home, what that hunk of w'aste had to do wfith my beating him up, and see what he says. ”
“I see,” P. B. nodded. “Well, if I make a deal for that cedar with Sam Gordon I’ll be under considerable obligation to you, O'Brien. But I never did put a man back to work after I’d fired him.”
“Oh, to blazes with you !” Mark broke out angrily. “If you think that’s what I’m fishing for . . .”
He whipped around and walked out, full of the just wrath of a man who has done something out of a generous impulse and had his motives ascribed to something ulterior. Mark went striding down to the dock with full intent to cast off and steam across the Gulf to a cannery he knew about, where a forty-foot fish-packer might find a charter for the season.
But Sherry Doan was sitting on the starboard berth in the cabin, reading a magazine, when Mark hopped down the companion steps. She looked up at him and smiled, and Mark forgot his haste.
“Did you see dad, uptown?” she asked. “Yeah, I saw him.”
“What did he say?”
“Nothing much,” Mark evaded. “Say. how’s Chuck today? I never thought to ask P. B.”
“Fine. He’ll be around in ten days or two ! weeks I’m going home with you. though.” “I’m not taking you back to camp, Sherry,” Mark said regretfully. “I took a fall out of papa’s pet today, and papa has fired me. So I’m going about my own business.”
“Why go farther when you might fare worse?” Sherry asked sweetly. “Dad told me you knocked Bill for a row of loops today. 1 le’s going to get the skids put under him tonight when we get home.”
“What for?” Mark asked. “Because he lost out in a scrap with me?”
“For trying to gum up the bilge pump so you'd have trouble when you got out into the rough stuff -so you’d look incompetent and the Jongleur unseaworthy—and for trying to persuade me Chuck just had a plain tummy-ache.
“You see,” Sherry declared, “I saw him shove that waste down into the bilge after he’d wiped his hands. I was standing right on the float, looking in the window. I knew exactly what had happened and how, when you hauled up that mess and cleared the bilge. So I told dad while we were at the
hospital......after he had told me you threw a
handful of dirty waste in Bill’s face and then bopped him. You are going back with us, Mark?”
“Why, the old son of a gun,” Mark declared. “He just told me he never put a man back to work after he fired him.”
“Dad has his moments.” Sherry laughed. “He was just teasing you. He knew I'd gone down to the Jongleur to smooth your ruffled feathers. Don’t be dumb. Mark.”
Mark O’Brien wasn’t dumb, he was only diffident. He stood staring at Sherry for a few seconds, then, with characteristic unexpectedness, he ceased to be either dumb or diffident.
A half hour or so later, the Jongleur listed slightly under P. B. Doan’s weight on her starboard rail. They didn’t even notice the motion.
“Pardon me if I seem to intrude.” he said apologetically, “but it just struck me that we ought to run across to Van Anda and tie Sam Gordon up to that cedar contract. How about it. O’Brien?”
“Okay by me.” said Mark. “Pm all ready to go places and do things.”