A MACLEAN'S NOVEL AWARD
James Mc Namee
Monica tore the roses and scattered the petals. "It’s picture language,” she said. “It says, ‘Watch out, he careful, you might lose your own head.’”
He had to wait next day until noon for the tide to recede and expose the patches of black sand before he could use the nitric acid. He washed between twenty and thirty pounds of sand, collecting the concentrates in his china cup. He baked the cup on the stove and spread the dry contents over a piece of wrapping paper, taking out the gold colors with a matchstick. He put back what was left into the cup and added nitric acid. The mixture seethed and rolled like lava.
The test was a disappointment. The inner sides of the cup yellowed and on the bottom a brown gum formed. He knew now the sands carried gold neither greyed by tellurium nor blackened by arsenic. Their only gold was free gold, flour gold, gold colors. He filled the china cup with water. The stains would remain but it could still be used for coffee.
He decided to start working the beach sand with his boxes. He spent the afternoon putting them together. He had two boxes, and a hopper, two feet in diameter, two feet in depth, narrowing to a spout, and he had a flat
tin tube with one end rounded, the other end soldered to a lid that fitted the tin boxes. Each box was rimmed with sponge rubber, and divided into two compartments, one large, one small. The spout where it joined the lid had a movable tongue.
To separate the light sand from the heavy, the hopper would be raised, attached to the spout with a coupling, the lid clamped to a box, and all filled with water. Sand would slide and tumble in the spout, through the water, each grain digging up or digging down according to its gravity, and, at the tongue, the light would take to the large compartment. and the sand with the gold would take to the small. As sand filled the box, the surplus water would drain through a hose from the hopper to the other box. The sand in the large compartment would be thrown away, the heavy sand kept until there was a quantity. and separated again, and again, and kept and separated again, the black being taken out by magnet, and after the collected residues had again gone continued on page 48
FLORENCIA BAY continued from page 31
through the spout the small compartment would glitter with gold. The gold pan and mercury would do the rest. Down the spout, into the boxes, gently sliding through six feet of covered water, and no capillary action, no floating particles.
Crogan split a cedar log into posts and built a trestle for the hopper. The satisfying task was finished before the rain began.
The rain stopped on Monday. Steam rose from the logs. Crogan collected the socks he had thrown out the window and rinsed them at the flume. The rain had done no damage to the roses outside Inkster’s shack. Their leaves were greener, the blossoms more pink. Cheered by their color, he snapped enough stems to make a small bunch and carried them with him down the beach. He set them on the sand beside the hopper.
He fitted a rubber hose to a cock on the edge of the hopper and left the other end dangling in the second box. The machine was set up. He filled it with water.
Crogan judged that eight shovelfuls would fill the hopper. It took ten. Water gurgled from the hose into the empty box. The sand ran slowly, retarded by the water it displaced, water rising and tumbling, making the heavy sink, gently segregating black from grey. He sat and waited.
“Hello, Mr. Crogan.”
“Why, hello, Miss Jack.”
She wore boy’s blue jeans, tucked into wellingtons that reminded him of the Mexican boots Robinson favored, and a boy’s T-shirt. Her hair was as he had first seen it, falling to the shoulders.
“Where did you come from?” he asked.
“Oh, I’ve been here a couple of minutes.”
“Why didn’t you say something?”
“I did. I said, hello, Mr. Crogan. You don’t seem to be busy. You’ve been sitting down ever since I left the. shack.” “What time is it?”
She looked at her wristwatch. It was either white gold or platinum. “Halfpast twelve,” she said.
“Where’s your father?”
“He’s gone on business.”
“Business with the American cousins, Miss Jack?”
“No. Business in Vancouver. Shipyard business.”
“Is he having a boat built?”
“A seiner, Mr. Crogan.”
“Isn’t that a big boat?”
“It has a crew of four or five, costs eighty, ninety thousand dollars.”
“That’s money, Miss Jack.”
“Oh, he’s got money. Have you had your lunch, Mr. Crogan?”
“Are you hungry?”
“I could eat something.”
“Just a minute.” He stepped on the log and put his hand in the hopper. The sand was not flowing fast enough. “Sit down, Miss Jack.” He had brought two ship biscuits with him, a thermos of coffee and a piece of cheese.
There was no embarrassment on seeing her again. It was as if her father had never made his wild proposal in the cabin of the Yeti. She looked like a kid. He wondered if he could have been the butt of Charlie’s humor. The Indian sense of the funny was a funny thing. Charlie had killed a German who had called him English and that was funny. When a buck courted a girl he had the hell knocked out of him by the girl’s brothers, every day he wore the top of his head in a different place, and that was funny. The ugly John, Tom and Augustine Jack had mimicked their father, wiped imaginary glasses and pur
them on, that was funny but they had refused to laugh. She looked like a kid in her blue jeans. “I can give you some hardtack, Miss Jack.”
“Anything, Mr. Crogan.”
“Just a minute. I want to see how the machine’s working.”
“How would you like to run a seiner, Mr. Crogan?”
“I don’t want to run a seiner, Miss Jack.”
“What do you want to do?”
“No. You can’t go bumming around the country, Mr. Crogan. Definitely.”
He felt as if a tent had collapsed on him. Was the joke to be continued? “Do you want your coffee now. Miss Jack?” “You use the cup first, Mr. Crogan.” He would fight, but the fight would be with Chaflie, not with a female squirt. Let Charlie come, John, Tom, Augustine, and give the young ones hatchets, Jacob and the silent Matthew, let them come, bring the cousins, bring the Somass people, everybody who wore a feather and ate fish, bring the Squamish, the Songhees and the Sookes, the Cowichans, the Comox, the Nootkas and the Bella Bellas, the Bella Coolas, let them come and tell him what he could or could not do. “This is your cheese, Miss Jack.” She pointed to the roses he had picked. “Who are those for, Mr. Crogan?”
He watched her gnaw at the ship biscuit. With her teeth she probably could nibble a tree. He could not stand the sight of her swallowing mouthful after mouthful of dry crumbs and hurried to give her the cup.
She sat cross-legged, toes tucked against her knees, body as straight as a gatepost. “Tell me about the roses, Mr. Crogan. Your story had better be good.” “Or what?”
“If it’s not good, God help you, Mr. Crogan.”
He scowled. Strong words to come from a pigmy. Years ago, if his mother had said, the truth or God help you, Pat, he would have told her what she wanted to know; she was a big woman, but this thing did not weigh much more than a hundred pounds.
“Why did you bring them?”
“How does that concern you, Miss Jack?”
“I will give you ten to answer, Mr. Crogan.”
Her eyes were slits. In the delicate hands inherited from her Welsh mother she held a stone, the size of a baseball. Crogan knew he was close to having the top of his own head put in a different place.
“Miss Jack, I'm not interested in anybody’s daughter. I repeat it, I’m not interested in anybody’s daughter. I’m here to take out gold.”
“Then stick to gold, Mr. Crogan, and keep away from roses.”
“I have some advice to give you, too, Miss Jack. Stick to oolichan oil.” He felt better. She might be sitting with a stone in her hand but he had thrown one verbally. “Miss Jack?”
“Tell that to your father.”
She leaned her head on her shoulder and tittered. “Poor Mr. Crogan! I’m sticking to something but it’s not oolichan oil.”
“To what. Miss Jack?”
“Ah, poor Mr. Crogan, poor Mr. Crogan! You have nice grey eyes.” She threw away the stone. “Enough of this lovers' quarrel, Mr. Crogan.”
“I said enough of this lovers’ quarrel.” Good God! Shades of the prison house had started to close about the growing
boy. He stared at her. He stared at the uncovered box, at the hose connecting it to the hopper. He said, “What time is it, Miss Jack?”
“Ten after one.”
He said, “I should be working.”
This was his machine. He had stood by while the tinsmith made it, brought it to the beach, set it up, filled it with water, shoveled in sand, had foreseen this moment when he would take off the lid, and now expectation was gone, knocked out of him by a savage, Miss Monica Jack. The machine was his baby. No one in the world had made one like it. Take off the lid and, there, black sand on one side, grey on the other, but where was the glory? Stolen by a halfpint who could sit with her toes tucked into the small of her knees like a contorted idol.
“What are you going to do about these roses, Mr. Crogan?”
“Then I’d better take them.”
“Couldn’t you pick some for yourself at the shack?”
“I want these.”
“Damn it!” he said. “Take them. Are you going now, Miss Jack?”
“Yes. I just came over to say hello to you. All the family’s on the beach to pick cascara.”
“We’ll be neighbors. Mamie and the boys are down here now.”
“How long will you be staying?”
“I don’t know. Maybe all summer. You won’t be lonely.”
“Good-by, Miss Jack.”
“I haven’t gone yet.”
“Don’t you have to help Mamie?” “Yah! Mamie. She can wait. I’ll sit here and talk to you.”
“Go ahead. You can still hear me. How did you like the rain we had?” “Why don’t you go and see what Mamie’s cooking?”
“What did you do when it rained, Mr. Crogan?”
“I thought of my sins.”
“It only rained for two days.”
“I thought of my sins and decided that next year I would enter a monastery.” “Oh, no you don't.”
“Oh, yes I do.”
“Oh, no you don’t.”
“Oh, no you don’t. They don't take married men.”
His mind clouded with exasperation. His declaration had been an inspired falsehood but he thought it would remove him from the orbit of the Jacks.
“You want to be a bull nun, Mr. Crogan?”
“Are those words you learned from the sisters, Miss Jack? If I have a vocation, if I decide to renounce the world, the flesh and the devil, is it not your duty to encourage me?”
“You can’t do it. You’ve got too much flesh.”
“Could you do it?”
“Me? I’ve got too much devil. But I’d look cute. Eyes like this. Hands like this. I’d be in charge of the boarders. Hard to get up? A bucket of water. Late for mass? I’d stand at the chapel door and boy! I’d kick their rumps.”
“You’d be cute, Miss Jack.”
“You should have seen me when I was confirmed by the bishop. I had a pigtail. What patron saint did you take when you were confirmed, Mr. Crogan?” “St. Francis, the one who went bumming around the country. Shouldn’t you go and help Mamie?”
“I want to tell you about the time I was confirmed. You know how you’re supposed to have someone stand behind
and put his hand on your shoulder . . .?”
“My father sent down Robinson. Robinson doesn’t know much, Mr. Crogan. He stands behind me with his hands in his pockets. When it’s my turn, the bishop sees him and he says, what’s wrong with you? He bawls him out in front of a church full of people. 1 don’t like it. Why are you so ignorant? the bishop says. You’re supposed to put your hand on the girl’s shoulder. I can feel Robinson giving him the look. You should know better than that, the bishop says.
Put your hand on her shoulder. That happened right before the altar, Mr. Crogan. Afterward they had cakes and cocoa. But 1 went outside to talk to Robinson. 1 said, let’s hide in the bushes, Robinson, and when his car comes we’ll throw rocks through a window, but he wouldn’t.”
“I see. Then what did you do?”
“I ran to get back before they finished all the cake. The bishop saw me come in. He liked me.”
“You were cute.”
“As a button, Mr. Crogan, and I
was the only Siwash kid they had at the convent. He said, come here, Monica. So 1 went over. You shouldn’t have done it, I said. What shouldn’t I have done, Monica? You shouldn't have hurt Robinson’s feelings, Í said. You shouldn’t have been rough when you told him to put his hand on my shoulder. Monica, he said, he should have known better. He didn’t like it, I said. Then he’ll know better the next time, the bishop said. I’m not talking about him, I said, I’m talking about Jesus Christ—He didn't like it.”
“You said that to the bishop?” “Sure.”
“What happened then?”
“I got sent upstairs. But I sure told him.”
“You sure did.”
“You don’t pack a big enough lunch. Mr. Crogan.”
“Are you hungry, Miss Jack?”
“I could eat something. I think I’ll go and see Mamie. Give me your hand.” “You’re not that hungry?”
“Lean over and give me your hand, 1 want to be pulled up.”
She took his hand. To Crogan, the thin delicate fingers with their bright red nails looked as if they belonged to some unknown variety of the human race.
“You have hair on the back of your hands, Mr. Crogan.”
“Irish hands, Miss Jack.”
“When you see an Irishman, you see a monkey.”
“You see the best monkey in the world, Miss Jack.”
“Pull me up.” When she was on her feet she said, “Poor Mr. Crogan! Always a monkey, never a monk.”
“Don’t be too sure.”
“You can’t lie to me, Mr. Crogan.” “Good-by, Miss Jack.”
“I haven’t gone yet. Where are the roses?” She stooped to pick up the bouquet and started twisting the flowers from their stems. She twisted them all, tearing the petals from each head, scattering them over the ground.
“There was no need for you to do that,” he said. “You could have taken them with you and thrown them away.” “No. I’m leaving a message. This is picture language. If any other woman comes here she’ll know I've been here first. It also says, watch out, be careful, you might lose your own head.”
There was a black glassy concentration in her eyes. He took the shovel and threw sand into the hopper.
“Good-by, Mr. Crogan.”
“Good-by, Miss Jack.” He waited for several moments and then turned to look at her. She was twenty, twenty-five yards away. A good distance for a grenade. The white collarless shirt, the blue denim pants, the half-boots seemed appropriate somehow to her square shoulders and small behind. Her hair looked like a block of polished ebony. She had the appearance of a high-school kid wearing her brother’s clothes — no, the appearance of a wolf wearing lamb’s clothes. She had the devil in her. The Welsh blood had gone to her oval face, to her delicate feet and delicate hands, had copper-pinked her skin, perhaps put the Celtic blue that gleamed in her hair when the sun struck it, but it had not subdued her character. She was a savage. Her mutilation of the roses, how she had snapped them, would have done credit to the cold frenzy of a weasel let loose in a henhouse.
It was a night dream, a summer’s madness. Charlie had said, how about this fellow, he ought to do, and she had said, I’ll take it. They had chosen Crogan with no more compunction than if he had been a tree to be cut into lumber. An unsentimental decision made by the two of them while hauling in fish. Crogan had fought for his country, given the country five years of his life, and now to save what was left of it he had to fight the Jacks. How did you defend yourself against the infiltrations of a female brat and a Siwash with gold-rimmed glasses? How did you refuse the hand of a girl when the hand held a rock? How could you hold ground against a tribe? He could. Let them come. Let Charlie yell, you’re elected to marry my daughter, let the daughter narrow her eyes, and the
brothers and the cousins launch their dugouts, to the whole damned outfit his answer would still be a resounding no.
And this was the day of the demonstration of his new method to recover gold, and all he could think about was his entanglement with a girl who tore up roses. He took the lid off the box. There had been a separation. The sand in the small compartment was dark but not as dark as he had hoped it would be. A subsequent run would make it blacker. He was more or less satisfied. He tested a handful in his gold pan, washing carefully, and counted eighty colors. He washed a handful from the larger compartment and counted about thirty. It was a big loss, yet it could be reduced by experimenting with the angle of the spout and the position of the divider.
One thing was certain. The sand took too long to run. He would be restricted to twelve or fifteen shovelsful an hour. But still, the machine would serve to show what values there were on the beach. He could always have a bigger one built. It would be an easy summer. The days would pass in sitting and waiting and shoveling a little sand.
He felt better. With his sparkling wits be was more than a match for a family of Indians. He had only to say no. It would come down to that. A simple no, a ferocious no, a challenging no—but no. It was the only defense needed. They could not club him the length of a church or twist his arm before a priest. But at the moment his was the position of a lonely man, a hunted stranger, no one to turn to, no door to rap on, nowhere to ask shelter from the night, from the slings and arrows of a tenacious tribe. And if a door did open, what could he say, for God’s sake! I’m in danger of getting married?
The two brown canvas tents he had seen in the natural meadow by Charlie’s house, on the other side of the peninsula, were now standing less than a hundred feet from Inkster’s shack. Next to them a frame of saplings supported a canvas fly. There were bundles and boxes on the sand and a tin cookstove. No one was about. They had probably gone back for a cargo of oolichan oil. He gathered an armful of driftwood to cook his supper. Climbing the steps, he noticed a decoration had been put below the window, a lipstick-penciled heart containing the initials M.J., P. C. You should have seen me when I was confirmed. I had pigtails. She still did, mentally.
In the afternoon there was smoke at the south end. The Jacks had arrived. He could now expect to have Monica as a visitor. He did have one, but it wasn’t Monica. It was the mountie, Freddy Trotsiuk, the indefatigable Rise and Shine. Crogan noticed he had a way of bringing his hand level to his wrist when he talked.
“Did you get to Alberni?” the horseman asked.
"Who took you? One of the Jack
“No. Charlie himself.”
“Did you get your nitric acid?”
“At the first drug store.”
“What boat did Charlie take?”
“She’s a good one. Jap-built.”
“She belonged to Hogashima, the one who was drowned.”
“I never knew that.”
Crogan asked, "Were there any further developments there?”
“About Hogashima? Why should there be? Did Monica go with you? By the way, congratulations. 1 hear you and Monica are engaged.” He didn't wait for Crogan to answer. "How’s this outfit of yours working? When you first came to the beach with your boxes, you know, everybody thought you were a moonshiner.”
Crogan was worried about the bottles he had in a paper bag under the table at Inkster’s shack. “Are you walking the length of the beach?” he asked.
“No. not now,” said Rise and Shine.
Crogan looked past him to the wild
“Have you seen anybody else on the beach, Crogan?” Rise and Shine said. “Another prospector?”
“Is there another prospector on the beach?”
“There’s supposed to be one here or on his way here.”
“What’s he done?”
“No. it’s not that. Alberni is just checking on him."
“Are you sure he’s coming?”
“So he said. They picked him up in
Alberni for investigation. That was two weeks ago. They couldn’t hold him. Not even for vagrancy. He had a free-miner’s licence. Now they’re wondering if he ever got here. He’s simple.”
“You should know if he did. You meet the boats.”
“The big boats, not the fishboats. But he’s not coming by boat, he’s walking in.”
“From Sproat Lake and down the Kennedy River. There’s a trail of some sort.”
Crogan had the conviction he was being watched — in the thicket someone waited his next move
“It doesn’t show on my map.”
“There is. During the war they walked a battalion in from Alberni.”
“How much is he packing?”
“They checked on that. He had a blanket and enough grub for five or six days.”
“And that was two weeks ago?” “Yes.”
“How’s the bush around here for black flies and mosquitoes?”
“Then he’s dead.”
“Let’s be reasonable, Crogan! They might send me back over the trail from this end to find the body.”
“He’s dead. He went off the trail.” “How do we know he didn’t shack up somewhere? There are a couple of old fellows doing development work on a mineral claim at the head of Kennedy Lake. He may be with them. We’ll wait. But if he does come, get word to me, will you?”
“Perhaps you could tell the Jacks.”
“I will. The poor guy must have read the same geological report I did. Some government man claimed he took a sample from the beach that, ran seventeen point six ounces of gold and one point one ounces of platinum the ton. At the foot of a wave-washed cliff, he said. That’s all the beach. And that’s a lot of gold. It should have started a rush as big as the one they had in California.” “Time I was getting back,” Rise and Shine said. “I have a call to make at Tofino.”
The horseman gone, Crogan cleared one of his boxes. He sat down to read the Voyage of the Beagle. Chapter Eight, the singular breed of oxen, the perforated pebbles, the flock of butterflies, Port Desire. Each sentence was a crypt. Each paragraph a cemetery.
Crogan had the conviction he was being watched. The feeling was the old one and still familiar, the heart emphasized its beat, the eyes, of their own accord, studied the middle ground, an organ other than the brain said that in the thicket, under the hedge, around the corner, on the battered roof top, someone was waiting to see him move. He stood up, thinking of Monica Jack. Smoke showed against the trees at the south end but the beach was empty. The feeling was as strong as ever. She might be practicing surprise and infiltration. He turned to the cliff and examined the ridge. Someone, with a black hat and a white beard, was looking at him, someone carrying a frying pan hooked to his belt, and a brown blanket draped over both shoulders like a shawl.
Crogan said hello.
“How do I get down, Johnnie?”
“You can’t slide down here, Johnnie.” “I did.”
“I got to get down, Johnnie.” Crogan sat on the log. The man ran ten paces along the ridge, and back again. The action was infantile and useless. He could see all the cliff’s face from where he had been standing. The brown rug about his shoulders, the white beard, the black hat, gave him the look of a peddler, an Algerian rug merchant. Crogan put his hand in the murky water of the hopper to see how much sand was
left. The man would jump or he wouldn’t jump.
“I see an island out there, Johnnie.” Crogan paid no attention. If the man had crossed the mountains over a forgotten trail, struggled through windfall, beaten his way along the reedy shore of lakes, followed his nose over muskeg, he had no need to crawl away from a slope a schoolboy could have taken on his backside.
“How do I get down, Johnnie?” “What have you got with you?” “I’ve got a shovel.”
“Then throw it down and you come after it.”
“That’s the ticket, Johnnie.”
It was not a shovel he had but a spade. “I got this shovel at Boston Bar, Johnnie.”
“There’s no gold at Boston Bar.” “There is, Johnnie.”
“No, there’s not.”
“Johnnie, that’s where I got the shovel.”
“What else have you got?”
“A gold pan.”
“All right. Throw it down.”
The pan soared over the edge, hitting the pile of grey barren sand Crogan had discarded from his boxes. It was sixteen inches in diameter, an antique. Crogan saw it had been used for a hundred purposes, had absorbed the smoke of a thousand fires.
The old man jumped. Crogan looked up when he heard pebbles rattling. The old man came down on his heels, pressing the spade into the ground behind him. When he reached the bottom, he clawed the blanket off his shoulders, threw it on the sand, and went through his pockets.
“What are you looking for?” Crogan asked.
“I got matches, Johnnie. I got cigarette papers.”
“Good for you.”
The old man whimpered. He came toward Crogan, his mouth trembling, his hand outstretched. “I need a smoke, Johnnie.”
“When did you last have one?” “Johnnie, I can’t think, I don’t know, I don’t know.”
Crogan moved away. Body or breath, the old man stank. There was a feral musk about him. His black hat, salted and water-marked, was as dirty as his gold pan; the brim sagged, the crown had collapsed like a rotten melon. Knees and side pockets of his corduroys were torn. His flannel shirt was sleazy, collar and cuffs crusted with a substance as solid as tar. He had teeth only in the lower jaw—black, jagged, brown, like stumps of a burned-over clearing.
“Are you hungry?” Crogan asked. “When did you eat last?”
“I don’t know, Johnnie.” He wrinkled his nose. “Maybe yesterday but I don’t think so, Johnnie.”
Crogan had coffee in his thermos and he had saved a potato from his lunch. He could eat a cold unsalted potato as if it were an apple. He had seen, not far from his boxes, a quarter-pint cream bottle that the ocean at some time had brought to the beach, and he went for it. St. Francis might have kissed a leper but Crogan himself did not intend that
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the old man should drink from his cup. As he filled the bottle, he said. “You walked in from Alberni?”
“I walked in, Johnnie.” When he saw the potato, he said, “Give me more than that, Johnnie.”
“That’s all I have.”
“Give me grub, Johnnie. I’ll pay for it.”
“There are stores at Ucluelet.”
“You’ve got more than a potato!”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Johnnie, open this.” He took an aspirin box from his shirt pocket. “I’ll give it to you for grub.”
Crogan took the box. It held a few dozen microscopic nuggets, not one larger than a grain of sand. He said. “You didn’t get this at Boston Bar.”
“There’s gold at Boston Bar, Johnnie.” “This gold isn’t from Boston Bar. Where did you get it?”
“At Whiskey Creek, Johnnie. Give me five dollars worth of grub.”
“You haven't two dollars worth here.” “Give me grub for it, Johnnie.”
The creature would have to be fed, but it was a long walk to Inkster’s shack. Taking an idiot there might prove a bad business, like allowing a stray dog to follow you home. “You stay here,” he said at last. “I’ll go and get you some grub.”
When Crogan returned, the old man, black hat on his face, lay wrapped in the dirty blanket. Qui dort, dine, Crogan thought. Who sleeps eats. Trust the French to fit a situation to a capsule. He remembered how the sound of the surf had prevented him from sleeping when he came to the beach. No one, as far as Crogan knew, had ever died of starvation in his sleep, and he placed some food from his slim stock a few inches from the old man's head.
As he retraced his steps toward Inkster’s shack, he wondered how to get word to Rise and Shine about the arrival of the missing prospector. What day did the truck run to Ucluelet? Today, tomorrow. He had forgotten.
He would have worked longer but he felt an urge to get away from the old man. The old man could dig where he pleased as long as he kept himself some distance from Crogan’s tin boxes. A few days’ effort should convince him that Florencia gold was not to be taken with a gold pan. If he had the idea of using a sluice, where could he put it? Certainly not at the flume by the shack. The old man was not to be encouraged. The first time it rained, he would come knocking at the door. Where Crogan had his boxes there was not enough water for a sluice. The only place remaining was the footwide stream between the shack and Crogan's boxes. Even if he only panned, there was no other water. He could not use the ocean; the waves and the following undertow would see to that.
Crogan did not climb the steps but kept on walking. The Jacks had gone again. More bundles were on the ground than there had been the day before. Under the canvas fly the stove had been put up, and someone had dene enough rough carpentry to make a trestle table and two benches. Crogan looked inside the tents. One had cedar slabs staked into the sand for bedforms, a large form with a groundsheet for Charlie and Mamie, a small one for the little boy who had helped Mamie fight the battle of the burned pancake. The other tent held a canvas cot, an air mattress, a green eiderdown, a green blanket, and folded sheets. Coat hangers were suspended from the ridgepole. There was also a swiveled mirror. Crogan knew he had his Irish nose in Monica Jack’s bedroom. He took it out.
Fog hid the beach. Crogan kept close to the cliff as he walked toward his boxes. The old man and his blanket had disappeared. Crogan felt relieved: the air would be sweeter for the old man’s going. He could have had an impulse in his poor head to walk back to Alberni. Then Crogan saw the blanket lying by the gold pan, black wood in a circle of stone, and a rusty can with wet tea leaves in it. The spade was missing.
The old man came back later when the day was sunny. He carried the spade across his shoulders at an awkward angle. It gave him the look of a scarecrow.
“What have you got to eat, Johnnie?” “I’ve had my breakfast.”
“Johnnie, I’m hungry.”
“Then build up your fire. I’ll give you something.”
“Got a match, Johnnie?”
“You have matches.”
The old man gathered driftwood. Crogan laid a slab of bacon and two biscuits in the gold pan. He said. “What’s your name?”
“Saul Finlay, Johnnie.”
‘Tm Pat Crogan.”
“I’m Saul Finlay, Johnnie.”
Crogan said, “There’s gold at Boston Bar.”
“There’s no gold at Boston Bar, Johnnie.”
Crogan looked at the sand he had in the plywood box. He said, “Where were you this morning?”
The old man browned the biscuits in the bacon fat. “Prospecting, Johnnie.” “How did you make out?”
“There’s gold here, Johnnie.”
“I’m looking for the place.”
“For the bottom of a wave-washed cliff, Johnnie.”
“That’s where the gold is.”
“Seventeen point six ounces.” “Seventeen point six ounces, Johnnie.” “And platinum? One point one ounce?” “I know about that, Johnnie. It’s in a government book.”
“Have you got the book?”
The old man wrinkled his nose. “I lost it, Johnnie.”
“Where did you find it?”
“Maybe at Manson Creek. There’s gold at Manson Creek, Johnnie.” He ate his
bacon, holding the half-cooked chunk in both hands, sucking the meat away from the rind. He broke the greasy biscuits on the edge of his pan and dipped the pieces in his tea.
Crogan said, “1 know where you can find that wave-washed cliff. I’ll show it to you.”
“I'm rolling a cigarette, Johnnie.” “Seventeen point six ounces of gold. Yes, sir! And you can pan it, too. There’s water.”
"Got a match?”
"You have matches. Don’t you want me to show it to you?”
"The wave-washed cliff. You were looking for it this morning.”
“I know I was, Johnnie.”
“Then yOu don't have to look anymore. I’ll take you right there.”
The old man was irritated. “I’m smoking. Johnnie.”
La patience est amère, mais son fruit est doux. Patience is a bitter tree, but its fruit is sweet. He would allow the old man to finish his cigarette.
“What are you doing, Johnnie?” "Separating sand.”
“I like separating sand.” If the creature had a tenth of his wits about him he would have known what the boxes were for, and appreciated the fact that sluicing could be done with imprisoned water as well as with water that gushed. The wits weren't there.
Crogan picked up Saul’s spade and the gold pan. He looked at his tent that had stayed in the same place, rolled, ever since he had come to the beach. The old man might as well borrow it. His blanket would not protect him from the rain. “Get up,” Crogan said. “Get up and grab that tent and the rest of your things.”
"Where are we going, Johnnie?”
"To the wave-washed cliff.”
"Arc we partners. Johnnie?”
“No. You can work this seventeenounce dirt yourself.”
The tent and blanket on his shoulders and the frying pan hitched to his belt, the old man walked with little steps, scuffing the sand, sending it ahead of him in showers.
"And there are some Indians camping at the end of the beach. Don't go near them.”
“Saul, I said don't go near them.”
“I won’t, Johnnie.”
The old man had better not. Definite if unexplained misfortunes had happened to others who intruded upon Charlie Jack. Hagoshima had refused to stay away from Ucluelet, and his body had washed up at the north corner, crabeaten, bones loose in the back of his head. And Inkster had disappeared, gone away, with a watch, a golden turnip, like the one the Chilcotin Robinson now carried. "Drop the tent, Saul. This is the foot of the wave-washed cliff.”
The old man, when he put down the tent, sat on it and looked at the shallow foot-wide stream. "I can’t pan here, Johnnie.”
"Yes, you can. Make a pool and you’ll have plenty of water.”
“There’s not enough for a sluice box, Johnnie.”
"Of course there is. It’s only sand you'll be sluicing, not gravel. When you want a sluice, I’ll get you one.” He thought of the two sections of Inkster's old sluice still lying on the bank above the flume. But the old man would never have the time to sluice. Rise and Shine , would take him away. “Can you put up the tent by yourself, Saul?”
“I can do it, Johnnie.”
“All right. After I quit work, I’ll bring you something to eat. Don’t go off. You stay here and pan gold.”
During the afternoon, as Crogan worked he often looked down the beach to see what the old man was doing. Finlay sat on the tent for hours before he put it up, perhaps confused as to whether this was the beach where he had thrown his gold pan, where the wave-washed cliff guarded its fictitious gold. When the tent was up, he took his blanket and went inside. Let him sleep. Unconscious, he was as normal as anyone else. Poor Saul! He was not a man with brain, body and eternal soul but a forked radish with the scent of a wolverine and the emotions of a goat.
Crogan, himself, slept, his head shadowed by the log. He woke to see Charlie Jack. It had happened before, at the same place, the first day he had been on the beach. Charlie, this time, had not brought his rifle with him but he did have Monica. She was sitting on her heels, fluttering the pages of Crogan’s book.
“Why didn’t you wake me?” Crogan asked. “Hello, Miss Jack.”
“Hello, Mr. Crogan. I wouldn’t let him. I wanted to see if you snore.”
“I’m happy to say that you don’t, Mr. Crogan.”
Charlie said, “1 can’t find any gold in these buckets, Pat.”
“Give me time, Charlie, give me time.” The eyes behind the glasses stared at Crogan. “I’m giving you time.”
Crogan felt a tightening in his stomach. There was power about Charlie. Crogan’s mother had had it, a conviction that what she had suggested should be done would be done. Crogan said, “I hear you were in Vancouver.”
Monica Jack shut the book. “I told you he was in Vancouver, Mr. Crogan.” “So you did.”
“How do you like my hair this way?” “Very nice.” She wore it scooped from the neck and braided across the crown. “It sort of gives your head a ridge.” “I don’t think much of the book you’re reading, Mr. Crogan.”
“No? I do.”
“Of course you do. You’d like it. But I don’t. I’m not a monkey. My ancestors didn’t eat peanuts, Mr. Crogan, they ate fish.”
“There’s very little about monkeys in that book, Miss Jack, but quite a bit about Indians.”
“What kind of Indians?”
“People who lived by salt water and paddled dugouts.”
“Siwash people, Mr. Crogan?” “Perhaps you could tell me. They had no clothes and they slept in the sleet and the rain but they did eat fish.”
“What part of Ireland did you say they came from, Mr. Crogan?”
Charlie shook his head in admiration. “She’s a smart kid.”
“Yes, isn’t she? Always laughing.” Smart alec kid.
“1 see there’s somebody else on the beach, Pat.”
“Another prospector, Charlie.”
Monica said, “We knew he was a prospector.”
“How did you know?”
“We looked inside the tent. He was sleeping.”
Charlie beamed. “Cute, eh, Pat?”
For all Crogan knew there could be cute Gila monsters.
Charlie asked, “What kind of a man is he?”
“Is it safe to have him on the beach, Pat?”
Crogan looked at Monica. She was in
a white sleeveless dress and wore the red shoes, the red belt and the red earrings. He remembered how male heads had turned to examine her in Alberni. He said, “No.”
“I’ll get him run off, Pat.”
Crogan knew Charlie had noticed him looking at Monica. He asked, “Where will you run him to? He hasn’t a dollar.” “I’ll give him a dollar, Pat. We don't want him.”
“Are the boys on the beach, Charlie?” ‘Tom and Augustine are. Matthew, too.”
“Then it should be all right. He won’t be here long.”
“I don’t want him, Pat.”
“It’s this way, Charlie. Rise and Shine will pick him up. He was here looking for him yesterday. I’ll send word to Ucluelet tomorrow.”
“Who’s feeding him?”
“I am. And you’d better let me do it. Don’t encourage him to hang around the camp.”
Monica listened to the talk, then pointed her finger at Crogan. “Tell him.” “Pat, do you know my daughter’s name?”
“What is it?”
Charlie beat one hand against the
other. “Then you call her Monica. I’m sick of this Miss Jack business.”
Crogan folded his arms and looked at the Pacific Ocean.
Monica said, “What did you want me to call him, parent? I forget.”
“You forget! You know. You don’t forget. You call him Pat.”
“That’s a small name for a big man with nice grey eyes, parent. Pat is a fat cat, Pat is a fat cat. Now I should remember.”
Charlie’s benevolence returned. He said, “The boys are doing nothing. Tom and Augustine can walk this bum into Ucluelet.”
“I’d rather wait for Rise and Shine, Charlie.”
“It’s his job.”
“Do you like this bum, Pat?”
“No.” A chipmunk was a nuisance, too, but you fed it crumbs. So with Saul Finlay. I was hungry and you brought me bread, I was thirsty and you found me tea, I was a stranger and you took me in, I had only a blanket and you lent me a tent, I was sick and you talked to me, I was in prison and you came to me, no, no, I was fit for an asylum and you waited for the decent Rise and Shine to pick me up. “He’s a prospector, Charlie, so am I. I just want to see him get a break.”
Monica rose and brushed the sand from her knees. “Did you shave this morning, fat cat?”
“I shaved yesterday after supper.” “How do you like my dress?”
“From Paris, I’m sure.”
“No. Seattle. The store knows what I look like. Spring, summer, fall and winter, they send me clothes.”
“Through the mail?”
“They send them to one of my American cousins at Neah Bay. Then they get imported.”
“On a dark night. I suppose he imports your nylons, too.”
“I’m not wearing stockings with this dress, fat cat. That’s me. It just looks as if I’ve got on stockings.” She lifted a leg and twisted her neck to look at it. “Nice legs I have, eh?”
Crogan said, “When do you start picking cascara, Charlie?”
“Parent, make him say I’ve got nice legs.”
Charlie said, “Pat, you tell her she’s got nice legs.”
“She’s a dream, Charlie.” A bad one. He recognized Charlie had given a definite order. If Monica had been a bottle, and if Charlie had said, pass me that, Crogan could have exercised his free will and passed it or refused to pass it. Yes or no. I will or 1 won’t. After all, in pigheadedness, Charlie compared to him was a broken reed. But these circumstances were involved. Monica was a third party. In her heart there might be sensibilities. Her presence made for hesitation. You could blast the head off an old rooster but you were instinctively careful of a chick.
“What do you want?”
“Have you a pocket knife?”
“Then clean your fingernails.”
There it was. A command. What did you say, who are you Miss Jack? Put your head three times in a bucket and take it out twice, you and your father and the remnants of the Somass Nation? “This is black sand, it’s not dirt.”
“You heard me. You’ve got grease on your pants, too.”
“They’re my working pants.”
“Clean your fingernails. I want you to look pretty.”
“What goes on, Charlie? Whose business is it if I’ve got grease on my pants?” “Parent, tell him he’s to have supper with us tonight.”
“You heard that, Pat.”
“I have to feed the old man, Charlie.’1 “I’ll take him down to the camp and feed him.”
“Don’t. I told him not to go near the camp. Leave him alone. I’ll find time to look after him.” He looked at Monica and said, “Excuse me. I want to talk to your father. Privately.”
“I won’t listen.”
Charlie growled at her in Somass. She took perhaps eight short steps. He growled again. She took two more, turned and stuck out her tongue. Charlie said, “Talk low, Pat.”
Crogan stood as close as he could to Charlie. “I don’t want to say this in front of her. It’s about the old man. He’s not responsible for what he does. If he caught a woman alone he might act up. You'd better keep an eye on Monica and Mamie.”
“I’ll run him off the beach.”
“Rise and Shine will come, Charlie. Let him do it.”
“I'll do it.”
“Take it easy, Charlie. Get the boys to sleep around Monica’s tent and it’s not likely anything will happen.”
“Oh my God! If he bothers Monica, Rise and Shine will never find him.” “What do you mean, Charlie?”
The broad big head could have been cast in bronze. His eyes were intent, his mouth a menace.
“If he hangs around, scare him, Charlie, don't hurt him.”
When Crogan turned, he bumped into Monica. “I suppose you heard everything.”
“You’re sneaky, aren’t you?”
“I’m good and sneaky.”
Charlie said, “You come for supper, Pat. Maybe we’ll have a drink.”
“You don’t have to wait for me, Char-
lie. You’ll find the bag under the table.”
“I’ll wait. We'll have a talk, Pat.” Charlie walked away, leaving Monica without a word.
What would the surprise be this time? Crogan was certain of one thing: Charlie, too. would have a surprise, his coldblooded matrimonial proposition would be rammed down his throat. Crogan started walking, too, toward the shack. He was quite aware that Monica was scampering to keep up with him.
“Try walking with your toes straight
out. You may find it faster, you know.” “You never mind my toes.”
“Good-by, Miss Jack.”
She swung the red shoe like a club and rapped the heel against his elbow.
From wrist to shoulder his arm went numb. “That hurt. Miss Jack.”
"You’ll get it on top of the head next time.”
A savage was a savage. He said nothing.
“My father says I’m to call you Pat.” “Some people call me Pat. Others call me Crogan. You call me Mr. Crogan.”
“What are you going to call me?” “Not what I would like to.”
“What are you going to call me when we’re married?”
“That miserable day will never come, Miss Jack.”
“Ho-ho! That’s what you think. Give me your hand.”
“I want to hold it.”
Before he had the time to come to a decision, her fingers slid into his. They were soft, warm and dry but their grip was vital. Her head came below his shoulder. The hair was blacker than anything else in all the world and it shone with the slickness of a hangman’s rope. She still lagged a step behind. He felt like an embarrassed parent dragging a stubborn child.
“My father said you were to call me Monica.”
“I’ll call you what I want.”
Monica dug her heels into the sand and stopped him. Her nails clawed his fingers. “You talk like that and I’ll smash your head so flat it will look like one of Mamie’s pancakes!”
Crogan knew the time had come to change the subject. She was dropping the lids on her eyes. He said, “Calm down. Your family will think we’re fighting.”
“Ah-h-h! I wouldn’t fight with you, Mr. Crogan. You know that. I’m happy. I’ve calmed down.”
“You be good and you can hold my hand again, Miss Jack.”
She was contrite and silent. He felt the streamlined slimness of her fingers. “What do you weigh?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I weighed myself in Alberni. A hundred and two pounds before lunch. A hundred and four pounds after lunch. I don’t know how much I weigh.” “That’s your trouble, you don't eat enough. You’re all skin and bone.”
“I’m perfect, Mr. Crogan.”
“A perfect figure should weigh more than a couple of pails of lard.”
“I’m all sweetness and muscle, Mr. Crogan.”
“Ninety-nine percent muscle, Miss Jack.”
She rubbed his cheek and pressed her palm against his mouth. “Poor Mr. Crogan! To think it’s me who has to save him from the fate that’s worse than death.” A moment later she added, “Did you say you liked my legs, Mr. Crogan?” “They charm me.” He couldn’t make her out. Her body, if delicate, was precise and she had no bumpish spread of femininity, and her face glowed with some sort of character; the eyes, in placid moments, were serene. She knew she had good legs, and she drew attention to them, not with the natural unthinking innocence of a child, not with archness, but with an unaffected appreciation of their worth. Certainly she had good legs, the skin lustrous and tanned. They matched. What Crogan found remarkable was that she only had two.
“Miss Jack, what is the fate worse than death that you’re saving me from?” “From becoming a dirty, old, talk-toyourself prospector, Mr. Crogan.” “Would it be better to go through life smelling of fish?”
“We’ll have a bathtub, Mr. Crogan.” He said with simple oratory, “Death before bondage!”
She gave him the up-and-down look. “Maybe so. Don’t forget you’re supposed to see my father.”
FLORENCIA BAY CONCLUSION