Her man was gone—and in Dell Gavin’s dark eyes as she tackled the hazards of a tough woods job there flamed a challenge to all men
BERTRAM B. FOWLER
IN ALL of Dukesboro County there was no woman who envied the life of Dell Gavin, living and doing for old Saul Gavin. Dell was a late child and an only child. She was a leggy young thing, awkward and shy, when Ma Gavin died and she became the woman of the house. Saul Gavin was already old then, white-haired and stooped, but as tough and stringy as a piece of seasoned ash.
There were always men around the old house on the Gavin place. In the fall there were the hunters from the States and the guides and the local gunners who made headquarters at the Gavin house. There were better guides than Saul, but in all the County there was none who could spin a tall yarn with Saul, or drink as much rum.
After she had become a woman grown, there were always a dozen or more to feed, hearty men with hunters’ appetites, and only Doll to do the cooking. And only Dell to fetch wood and water. Besides that, there were the two cows to milk and the pair of nags to tend. For Saul was never one to bother about chores.
Of all the young bucks who dropped in of a winter evening, there was never a one but Johnny Shelby and Angus MacLsaac to ever give a hand with the fetching of wood and t he lugging of water. Johnny was the one who must have given the greatest pleasure to Dell in his stopping. For he was handsome, young, big and blond, with an easy swagger when he walked and a smile to brighten the heart of any girl.
Though Johnny was the favorite, it was Angus who more often fetched and lugged for her. But there was nothing about Angus to give a girl pleasure beyond the help of having heavy work lightened. For Angus was black and dour where Johnny was light and agreeable. Angus was also a great size of a man, but his size was all awkwardness.
The morning after Saul died the folks gathered for miles around to do what they might. The face of Dell was no graver nor more serious than before. After all the folks had gone, Johnny was in the kitchen facing Dell. He spoke slowly.
“I had to wait to tell you by yourself. Though it’s not the kind of news I would like to be telling you at such a time.”
‘‘Tell me, Johnny,” Dell said in the steady, grave voice of hers.
‘‘You’ll perhaps remember,” Johnny said, “a man who came here to hunt moose last fall; a man by the name of Leighton. He was a big man in the pulp business in the States.”
Dell nodded. ‘‘I remember him.”
“I talked to him about a job at the time,” Johnny went on. “And now I’ve just had a letter from him asking me to go direct to Portland, Maine, to see him and go to work. So I’ll be starting in the morning.”
For a moment or two Dell spoke no word. Then she said, slowly, deliberately, “It’s a chance you can’t afford to miss, Johnny. You have to go.” “Yes,” said Johnny. “I’ll have to go. I’ll learn more about the pulp business than I ever would here, peeling pulpwood in the heat of the sun with the black flies chewing the hide off me. I’ll have a chance to become a big man in the business.” Johnny hesitated. Then, “I hate to leave you here, Dell. I wish I could take you with me.”
There was no tremor in Dell’s voice as she said, “I’ll make out all right, Johnny. You don’t have to worry about me.”
“But, maybe, someday,” Johnny continued, “when I’ve made my way and have a job that’s a real job.”
“Maybe,” Dell repeated. “Someday.”
They stood for a moment, gazing deep into each other’s eyes. Then Johnny reached out his arms and held her for a brief moment.
THE NEXT morning Johnny headed for Antigonish and the train for the States. And Angus came to the Gavin place to help Dell with the chores.
After Angus had finished and was stopping in the kitchen for a bite with Dell, she said, “There’s no call for you to stop by any more, Angus. I can do what I have to do by myself.”
“It’s not much I’ve been doing for you,” Angus said slowly. “But, like everyone around, I’ve been wondering what you’ll be doing now that Saul has gone. A woman can’t run a place like a man and expect to make a living.”
Dell smiled, and there was no humor in the smile. “From what I’ve seen of most of the men around here,” she said, “I’m of the opinion that I’d be a poor creature if I couldn’t do as well. Who do you suppose has kept this place going? Not the loudmouthed loafers who came here to drink Pa’s rum and listen to his stories and encourage him in his idleness. If the men I’ve seen around here can make a living, I guess I can.”
Angus shook his head. “There’s no living to be made off this land. A man has to go to the sea or into the woods and cut pulp in the winter and peel it in the spring and summer if he’s to make a living. And a woman couldn’t do that.”
“I’d like to know why not?” Dell asked defiantly. She walked to the door. For just a moment her eyes softened and her mouth was tender as she looked along the road that Johnny had taken such a short time before. Gazing, the softness faded as loneliness stared starkly from her eyes. Gradually, gazing so, the loneliness vanished and there remained only a fixity of purpose.
It was as though she suddenly realized that she was not the kind of woman to stand by a door and wait for a man who might or might not come back; wait for a man to fulfill her dreams. Only in action could the longing for his arms be stifled; only in self-achievement could she lessen the ache should he never return.
There was a challenging look in her dark eyes and a proud lift to her head as she turned it to look at the spruce woods that were hers. Saul had left her plenty of woodland, if he had left her little else. Most people in that country owned such woodland. But it was no asset unless you had the brawn to take your pay out of it by the cord.
Staring fixedly at the woods, she said, “It’s fall again. And this fall there is no tribe of hungry hunters to feed and fetch for. I’m going into the woods and cut pulpwood.” She swung around and faced Angus. “You have no woods of your own. Where are you going to work this winter?”
“Why,” Angus said slowly, “I suppose I’ll cut with some of the men on shares as always.”
“Cut with me on shares,” Dell said forcefully. “Cut with me and we’ll find out if there isn’t a way to make more money than most of these shiftless clodhoppers make when they sell to every buyer who rattles over the road after a cord of pulpwood.” Angus frowned at that. For there was no one in Dukesboro who bothered other than to cut and
peel and sell his pulpwood to such buyers as came along. There was not a one who would chance rafting it and selling to the ships when they came in to load. Though they were ever ready to grumble at the three dollars or so they got for a cord of pulpwood; always ready to grumble at the prices the buyers got for delivery alongside the ships, yet never ready to do anything about it.
Dell pointed to the sliver of sea that glimmered through a notch in the hill. “Yonder’s The Arm. The ships come in there. We could raft there as easily as sell it to the dealers if we cut and peeled enough to make it worth buying.”
“We’d have to cut more than two people could cut,” Angus said. And it was natural of the man not to mention that one of them would be a woman. “Then there would be the trucks to haul it out to The Arm after it’s peeled.”
“Not if we hauled it out on the snow and piled it by The Arm. As well peel it there come spring as in the woods. We could hire some Frenchies from Lundy and the back settlement to cut and peel. It’s the only way there’s money to be made in it.” Her eyes looked levelly at Angus who made no answer to that. “I have a team and you have a team,” she went on. “There are more teams to be hired along with the Frenchies when the work is slack in the winter. And I have some money. I’ve kept it from all going into rum after the hunters left in past falls. We can do it.”
Angus had no argument to make. But neither had he any suggestions. He just agreed and shouldered axe and saw to go into Gavin’s woods.
DUKESBORO had never seen anything like it: a woman in the woods bossing a gang of men. A lot of the Frenchmen who came out from Lundy came from curiosity. Some of them, their curiosity satisfied after a few days, went back to other jobs.
Those who stayed got their fill of hard work that winter. The stone-faced woman with the unsmiling mouth and level dark eyes was a slave driver. It was something to see her, overalls tucked into moccasin tops, wearing a man’s mackinaw shirt, swinging an axe or pushing a pulp saw through the lengths of spruce and fir. Late in the season her team on the road to The Arm carried the biggest loads, with Dell sitting atop them, more like a man than ever in a sheepskin coat.
Angus hired a youngster to drive his team while he stayed right on with the woods crew. If there was no Dell there to lash the crew with a glance and a tightening of her mouth, there was Angus, dour and silent, doing the work of two men, keeping the crew bristling with the force of his example. Only once during the winter did any of the crew
make light of the fact that they worked for a woman. That one was Jules LeBlanc, a bullshouldered Frenchman with the light easy manner of a fighting man, who always had been a great one with the ladies.
He was standing that day by the roadside as Dell pulled out with a load. After she had passed he said flippantly, “She’s getting one great business, when wood she’s haul by woman lumberjack. What kind of men—?”
Behind him, Angus said harshly, “Turn around, Jules!”
Jules turned, shoulders hunching, axe tossed aside as his hands came up. He recognized the note in Angus’ voice.
That was a fight. For ten minutes it raged along the wood road while the crew quit work to watch. At the end of ten minutes Jules was down, one side of his face beginning to puff, an eye closed.
Angus turned, picked up his axe and said evenly, “Get on with your work.”
They went back to work without further remarks, but with many a glance at Angus. They had just seen a most astonishing thing. For Jules was known as the greatest fighting man in the County and this was the first time anyone had seen the slow-voiced Angus moved to physical force.
Jules went back to work and there was no more
reference to women lumberjacks; at least not on the job.
There was an odd mixture of watchful curiosity and suspended judgment in the way the County took that pair and their pulpwood venture. It was Dell who drove the bargain with the pulp buyers and there was less of snickering and sly joking when she got eight dollars a cord for her pulp while all along the shore the cutters were getting three and four dollars for the wood they had piled here and there along the roads for the trucks of the small manufacturers to pick up.
If Angus minded playing second fiddle to a woman there was no sign of it as he came into town of a Saturday. He was as dour and silent as ever. And there was no one, remembering that fight with Jules LeBlanc, who wished to poke any fun at him. And between Angus and Dell there was never a word of Johnny. Though it was plain that Dell would watch for the mail carrier and, emptyhanded, have that gravity and purpose on her face daily more fixed.
But the second year, with a bigger cut of wood than ever selling aboard the vessels, the County had come to accept them as a pair of partners who were making a go of it in a business that took hard driving and harder bargaining to achieve any degree of success.
THROUGH all that time Dell did the work of a man. It was an interesting sight to see her of a late spring day, down at The Arm, peeling pulp with the black flies in a thick cloud around her head, arms bare to the elbows and black with the smear of greasy fly-repelling dope. Her face, smeared with a mask of the same dope, was fixed and hard with determination.
But she was all woman that day when she came to Angus with a letter in her hands; a letter with the U.S. postmark on it. There was a note in her voice that Angus had not heard these past years, as she said, “Johnny is coming back, Angus.”
When Angus made no answer, she said, “The pulp company is sending him back. He’s a big man in the company now.” And there was a prideful lift to her voice as she said it.
Then the note of pride levelled out as she went on. “The company is sending him here to open some camps and contract for all the pulpwood that’s cut around here. The company steamers will pick it up from The Arm during the summer.”
“Then I suppose we’ll sell to Johnny and his company,” Angus said slowly. “If he’s going to tie the whole business up, he'll see to it that no one else will get a chance to buy.”
“We’ll sell where we can get the best price,” Dell said with sudden irritation. “We’ll sell as we did
this summer. Not even Johnny can come here and spoil what we’ve built up.”
There was a flare of something fierce and hot in her eyes as she looked at Angus. “I’ve shown them all,” she said, “that a woman can help herself. I’ve shown them all that a woman doesn’t have to wait for any man, but can make a way of her own.”
With that she turned away and strode off, the letter clenched in lier hand, curled and twisted into a tight cylinder.
Then Johnny came back, as smiling and handsome as ever, but with something changed in his manner. He talked grandly, and acted the same, as he set about getting options on stands of pulpwood, building camps and hiring men.
He met Dell of an afternoon on the main street of the village. And it was a strange meeting for a pair who had parted as they had parted. For there was something in Dell’s manner that was an open challenge.
His acceptance of the challenge was in the way Johnny tilted back his head, with amusement in his eyes as well as on his mouth, saying, “I hear that you’ve been springing surprises on t he folks around here. I hear that you’ve been making a nice thing out of your pulpwood deals.”
“Nice enough,” Dell said levelly. “I’ve made money.”
Johnny lifted a shoulder in a tiny shrug. “You won’t have to worry about your market next year. I’ll be the only buyer shipping out of The Arm. The independent shippers and buyers will be moving to other parts now that I’ve tied up all the production in the County.”
Dell didn’t stir. Nor did her expression change. “I'll sell to anyone who gives me the right price.”
“It’ll be a fair price,” Johnny said complacently. “And it will be the only price around here. I guess, if it comes to that, I can take out all I’ll need with the crews I’m putting into the woods.”
“Maybe you will,” Dell said impez’turbably. “We’ll see.”
She turned at that and walked away from Johnny, her back straight, carrying her head proudly. And Johnny watched her go, a quizzical smile on his lips. He looked as if he might be asking himself if there had really been a day when he had taken her in his arzns.
THAT FALL, work in the Gavin woods got started in a somewhat odd fashion. Dell and Angus were lining up their crews again. But Johnny had taken most of them. There were very few to go into the woods until the day when Jules LeBIanc showed up, swaggering, smiling, at the head of a gang from Lundy.
Dell hired them as though it were all a matter of course, making no comment; asking Jules no reasons for his coming back to her.
They were in the woods when Jules made his first comment. “That Johnny,” he chuckled, “hees too beeg for hees shoes. That Johnny hees turn out beeg man, huh?” Nobody bothered to answer him.
Johnny had a fast-stepping little mare and cutter that winter. The only tizne anyone saw him was when he dashed through from camp to camp. He was, as Jules had said, getting to be a big man. He knew how to handle men. He knew how to plan operations and lay out roads over which the pulpwood would flow to The Arm as the snow came.
When the snow came, it came in no uncertain manner. They still talk about that winter around Dukesboro. Blizzard followed blizzard, lashing in over the grey North Atlantic, drifting up the roads, piling layer upon layer in the woods, slowing the operations of cutters and haulers alike.
Through it all the teams of Johnny kept bucking the drifts, ripping the roads open, keeping the pulp moving.
The bells of the sled teams hired by Dell and Angus tongued no less a beat. They sprinkled their sharp, crisp notes on the darkness of early morning and there wrere lanterns bobbing around the growing pulpwood piles along The Arm long after the early night had closed down.
Continued on page 26
Continued from page 20—Starts on page 18
Dell was a driver and Angus was still the one to do the work of two, though he wasn’t needed so much in the woods now since Jules had taken over his self-appointed task of slave driver to the crew of French Canadians.
There was still too much of the pulp piled along the wood roads when the last big blizzard came roaring down out of the north. All day, from long before dawn, on through the lashing grey curtain of the day that was all twilight, the teams bucked it, keeping the roads open so that w'hen morning came again and the storm broke there would be open roads in the woods.
At noon, Dell brought her steaming team into the stable behind the old house. Angus was there feeding his team. Afterward they walked out together and paused in the yard.
Dell lifted her face to the wet drive of the sticky snow and said, “Do you smell what I smell in this storm, Angus?”
“It’s warming a mite,” Angus said.
Dell nodded. “Then you know what that means. I’m not taking my team out this afternoon, Angus.”
Angus said slowly, “You may be right. But I’ll keep mine going just the same. If we both quit, the other teams will lay down on the job. They’ve got to be kept moving this afternoon whether you’re right or not.”
That afternoon Angus drove his spent team into Joe Larrabie’s stable behind the store. When Joe came out, Angus said, “You’ve got the only team in the village that hasn’t been out all day. I want it.”
Joe walked to the door and lifted his face to the drive of the storm that had turned thin and watery with a biting chill in it. He came back nodding. “You’re a smart man, Angus. You can have the team. But if it gets w'orse and you don’t keep your roads open, you’ll have to pay for any damages to the team.”
“You know' that I’d do that anyv'ay,” Angus said gruffly. Then, fiercely, with a note that Joe had never heard in Angus’ voice before, “Damn the expense. I’ve got to have that team.”
“I suppose,” Joe said slowly, “that’s why Dell took her team off the road at noon; to rest it so’s she’d be able to put it back on the road tonight.”
Angus nodded. “That’s the reason,
Joe. If we don’t lick this storm, it will lick us completely.”
ANGUS drove his team out of the yard in front of Dell’s in the blank darkness of the early night, his head averted against the slashing needles of the storm that had turned to watery sleet. Already the snow was beginning to crunch and crackle under the horses’ hoofs. From now until the sleet storm was over they would have to keep going along the wood roads, smashing the crust before it got thick enough to lacerate the legs of the horses when they broke through. By morning, if these roads were not kept open, not a horse could safely move in the woods until the crust melted.
The story of that night is something of a minor saga in Dukesboro. Men tell of hearing the sled bells of the two teams jangling in the woods all through the wild and bitter night, belling out their challenge to the storm long after the teams of the other crews had quit in trembling exhaustion.
Jules found them back on the woods roads when he drove in with a load of extra heavy log chains in the back of his sleigh. He found them, their faces raw and red from the slash of the sleet, their horses standing heads down and legs braced wide w'hen they halted them for a breather.
Jules had helped them attach the extra chains to the tail of the rear bobsled to drag and help further to reduce the crust to broken granules.
And Jules was at the stable to meet them when they came into the yard in the first grey of the dawm when the sleet had stopped and the w'oods about them creaked and groaned under the enormous load of ice that cased every limb and twig in glistening armor.
That w'as once w'hen Dell had shown tiredness. She had dropped the reins and risen from the bolster of the front sled as though she were made of wood and might break at each move. She turned and stumbled away toward the house without a backward look, shoulders slumped, feet dragging as she walked.
But the marvel was Angus. He unhitched and unharnessed his own team, w'hile Jules took care of Dell’s. Jules said afterward that he moved like a man who is asleep on his feet, his face a raw, rigid mask, his eyes
dull with fatigue, his every motion mechanical and stiff.
Angus left Jules to feed the teams and walked across to the house. There was ice in his legs. Still moving like a mechanical man, he puded off his sheepskin coat, let it drop to the kitchen floor and stretched out there. Muscles relaxing, he fell into a deep well of slumber.
Angus awoke with the sound of bells in his ears at noon. He got up stiifly from the floor. Dell was at the open door, staring out to the main road.
Angus went to the door and looked over her shoulder. The string of teams with their loads of pulpwood were black and heavy against the glaring brilliance of the ice that covered all things. And in all the str.ng that jangled their bells along the road to The Arm, there was no team of Johnny’s. Which meant that the roads through Johnny’s cuttings we:e sealed with sleet and no load of pulp could get out to join the flow of Dell’s to The Arm.
Dell spoke without turning her head, her voice hoarse and raspy in herthroat. “They’re moving, Angus.”
“Yes,” Angus said simply. “They are moving. Let’s get something to eat. I’m going to get out there with them.”
The ice held for five days in the bitter March wind that set in on the heels of the storm. For five days no stream of pulp flowed from Johnny’s cuttings.
Johnny was doing everything humanly possible. Four of his teams were laid up with lacerated legs after vain attempts to break through the sealed roads. And Johnny seemed to be everywhere, raging, fighting. But he was fighting something this time that was as cold and adamant as the wind that swept in over The Arm.
When the crust finally softened Johnny drove his teams like a wild man. No man quit until his team quit from exhaustion.
On the last day of sledding the steel-shod runners were breaking through the remnants of rotten snow to bite on rocks and mud. The hauling was over. Anything left would have to wait until after the thaw when the roads had dried sufficiently to let trucks and wagons get into the woods. But the last day’s hauling was all that Dell and Angus asked. Of all their cut there remained in the woods not more than a scattered hundred cords of pulp.
HY THE time summer came it was plain to anyone who could see at all that a war was being waged along The Arm. For the whole sweep of The Arm was white with the booms of pulpwood that Johnny had rafted for the steamers. And if there were several thousand cords of wood still piled along the back stretches of the wood, it still looked as though Johnny had all the pulp in Dukesboro County floating there in The Arm.
Along the shore Dell and Angus worked and drove their peelers, with their three thousand cords of wood stretching in gleaming strings along the shore. And to see them work you wouldn’t think that either of them had any doubt that they would sell their cut.
But there was doubt in plenty among those who had no stake in the battle. For it was common talk along the shore that Johnny’s company had been putting pressure on the small buyers so that not the nose of a single independent vessel poked into The Arm looking for a load of pulp.
It was Johnny who spoke the first word that showed how he felt. He came over to where Angus was peeling of an afternoon when Dell was in the village. The easy confidence of the man was in the smile on his lips as he said, “You’ve got a fine lot of pulp here, Angus. Have you thought about where you’re going to sell it?”
“We cut it to sell,” Angus said heavily. “We’ve sold it before and we’ll sell it again.”
“That,” said Johnny easily, “was before the company moved in here. We’re the only buyers around here now, Angus.”
With that he walked away, leaving Angus to stare dourly at the easy, confident swing of his shoulders.
That was the open challenge; the word that Johnny had the whip hand and intended to drive his own bargain when the right time came.
That same night Dell, hearing of what Johnny had said, went to Angus’ house to talk to him of what they might do. And that night there was something in Dell’s eyes that had never been there before. Because on that day she had received the letter from the buyer who was almost her last hope. And the buyer had sent her word that he would not be into The Arm that summer to buy any pulp.
Outside Angus’ door she halted, her chin coming up and a strange light getting into her eyes. For she 1 could hear the hoarse bellow of laughter from inside. Jules LeBlanc was there with a half dozen of his i crew. There were some of the peelers who worked for Johnny. There were also a few of Johnny’s headquarters gang.
For just a moment there was a queer sort of silence in the room as Dell stood there with her back to the j door, scorn on her lips and in her eyes ! as she stared at them.
Angus got to his feet, one big hand gripping a gallon rum jug. He swayed a little on his feet as he faced Dell.
“You weak-kneed fool !” Dell said. “Is this a time to get drunk? With Johnny Shelby pushing us to the wall, you go and get drunk.”
The faintest sort of a smile touched Angus’ hard mouth. “It’s great stuff, is rum, Dell. It has more uses than a body would imagine who didn’t know.”
Dell said no more. She turned and walked out, her back straighter than ever, the scorn on her lips terrible to see. But it was not so terrible as the pain and hurt that was in her eyes.
ON THE days that followed there was no word spoken between them of that night. But it was there just the same, like a barrier rising between them, as steamers continued to ply and the booms of Johnny’s pulpwood shrank in the shining waters of The Arm.
They were both at the shore of The Arm that evening when Johnny came across the sand toward them, the 1
same easy swing to his shoulders, the same confident smile on his lips.
It was Dell that Johnny faced as he said, “I told you there would be no other buyer here in The Arm this summer. Now what are you going to do, with last winter’s bills still hanging over your head and your crew of peelers beginning to worry about their pay?”
What Johnny was saying was common knowledge in Dukesboro. For everyone knew that Dell and Angus had put their last cent into the year’s operations and were than up to their necks in debt.
When Dell did not answer, Johnny said, “Now who is going to buy your pulpwood?”
It was Angus who answered him and there was a note in his voice that brought Dell around sharply, her dark brows pulled down in a frown as she stared. Jules LeBlanc came along the piles to stand with one shoulder leaning against the wood, a smile on his face as he watched Johnny.
Angus said slowly, “Why, you’re going to buy it, Johnny.” It seemed to Dell that there was something like secret amusement in his voice.
Johnny was silent for a long moment, with a little flush climbing up around his ears. His voice was ragged as he said, “Maybe I will, Angus. But it will be at my price. I’ll give you six dollars a cord for it as it stands. And you’re lucky to be able to unload at that price.”
Angus shook his head slowly. “Eight dollars a cord, Johnny.” Johnny took a swift step forward. For a moment it seemed to Dell that he was about to strike Angus. Then she drew a deep, long breath, for there was bluster in Johnny’s voice.
“You’re crazy,” he said. “Why should I pay eight dollars when it has cost me only five dollars a cord to land my cut aboard the steamers?” “Because you’ve got to have it, Johnny,” Angus said gently. “Because your company sent you down here with a quota. You’ve got to deliver a minimum aboard the boats or you’re out. And you haven’t got that minimum. You let the sleet storm lick you. All the trucks and wagons between here and Halifax couldn’t get that stuff of yours out of the woods this summer and you know it. You’re licked, Johnny. Your only way out is our pulp. You’ve got to have two thousand cords. To get it you’ll have to buy our three thousand at eight dollars a cord. Flight dollars, and not a cent less, Johnny.”
Johnny’s voice was thick with rage as he said, “You can keep your damned pulp, both you and your pants-wearing woman.”
No one in Dukesboro ever saw Angus move so fast. Johnny started to lift his hands. He got them only part way up when Angus’ fist hit his jaw like a sledge, slamming him back against a pulp pile, his knees sagging.
Angus caught him by the front of the shirt and slammed him back against the wood as he sagged forward. Angus’ voice was savage, frightening. “That will cost you another two dollars a cord, Johnny. You’ll pay ten now. And you’ll pay tonight. Do you think you’ve fooled everyone with your swagger and your
loud talk? I’ve had an offer of eight dollars a cord from a man who will send a steamer in as soon as I give the word. I’m going into the village now. I’m doing one of two things. I’m collecting a cheque from you or I’m sending a telegram. I’ll let you decide which it will be.”
With that he flung Johnny from him, turned on his heel and went down the hill, walking with never a backward look.
As Johnny picked himself up slowly, Dell said, “It’s hard to take, isn’t it, Johnny? It’s hard to build yourself up as the big man with all the power in his hands only to find out that there are others bigger and smarter.”
Johnny’s snarl was unintelligible as he turned away.
Dell turned to Jules. “Angus knew all the time, didn’t he, Jules? How did he find out?”
Jules chuckled. “Hees smart feller, that Angus. For why you t’ink Angus have all them feller around on hees place and fill them up wit’ good rum? FYr why you s’pose I’m bring round Joey Gardiner who is close like that to Johnny?” He held up two overlapped fingers as he grinned at her.
“You mean he got Joey Gardiner drunk and found out that Johnny had to have another two thousand cords to make good his contract with his company?”
Jules nodded. “That Angus,” he chuckled, “is most smartest feller in County.”
DELL STOOD in her kitchen door in the early evening, watching Angus cross the field toward the house. He came with long, hard strides that told their own story of what had happened in town. She didn’t need his word.
She turned from the door to glance at herself in the mirror. The dress she was wearing made her again a woman. Her eyes had lost their level coldness and shone softly.
She turned back to the door, looking down the path that a man had taken a morning so long ago and up which another was now walking. The sight of the man on the path was warm and comforting. It was a grand, fine thing for a woman to stand in a doorway and watch the man of her choice approaching.