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The Man in the Twilight
by Ridgwell Cullum
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For some moments the lonely figure stood gazing down the woodland aisles. The deep, shining light of a great hope was in his eyes. A wonderful tender smile had dispersed the shadows of his ascetic face. At length, as the girl's figure became completely swallowed up in the twilight of it all, he turned away and passed into the foliage shelter which was his home.

He was squatting on his box, and the small canvas bag containing his belongings was open beside him. Its contents were strewn about. He was writing a long letter. There was several pages of it. When he had finished he read it over carefully. Then he carefully folded it and placed it in an envelope, and addressed it. It was addressed:

MR. BULL STERNFORD, Sachigo, Farewell Cove, Labrador.



CHAPTER VII

THE SKANDINAVIA MOVES

Bat gazed up at the wooded ridge. They were standing in the marshy bottom of a natural hollow amidst a sparse scattering of pine and attenuated spruce. Beyond the ridge lay the waters of the cove. And to the left the broad waters of the river mouth flowed by. It was a desolate, damp spot, but its significance to the two men studying it was profound.

Skert Lawton, the chief engineer of Sachigo, tall, loose-limbed, raw-boned, watched his superior with somewhat mournful, unsmiling eyes. There was something of deadly earnest in his regard, something anxious. But that was always his way. Bat had once said of him: "Skert Lawton's one hell of a good boy. But I won't get no comfort in the grave if I ain't ever see him grin." There was not the smallest sign of a smile in him now.

"It's one big notion," Bat said, at last. Then he added doubtfully. "It comes mighty nigh being too big."

Lawton emitted a curious sound like a snort. It was mainly, however, an ejaculation of violent impatience. Bat turned with a twinkling grin, surveying the queer figure. His engineer was always a source of the profoundest interest for him. Just now, in his hard, rough clothing, he might have been a lumber-jack, or casual labourer. Anything, in fact, rather than the college-bred, brilliant engineer he really was.

Bat's doubt had been carefully calculated. He knew his man. And just now as he awaited the explosion he looked for, his thoughts went back to a scene he had once had with a half drunken machine-minder whom he had had to pay off. The man had epitomised the chief engineer's qualities and character, as those who encountered his authority understood them, in a few lurid, illuminating phrases. "You know," he had said, "that guy ain't a man. No, sir. He's the mush-fed image of a penitentiary boss. I guess he'd set the grease box of a driving shaft hot with a look. His temper 'ud burn holes in sheet iron. As for work—work? Holy Mackinaw! I've worked hired man to a French Canuk mossback which don't leave a feller the playtime of a nigger slave, but that hell-hired Scotch machine boss sets me yearnin' for that mossback's wage like a bull-pup chasin' offal. I tell you right here if that guy don't quit his notions there'll be murder done. Bloody murder! An' it's a God's sure thing when that happens he'll freeze to death in hell. It don't rile me a thing to be told the things he guesses my mother was. Maybe that's a matter of opinion, and, anyway, she's mixin' with a crop of angels who don't figger to have no truck with Scotch machine bosses. I guess a sight of his flea-bitten features 'ud set 'em seein' things so they wouldn't rec'nise their harps from frypans, and they'd moult feathers till you wouldn't know it from a snowfall on Labrador. But when he mixes his notions of my ma with 'lazy'! Lazy! Lazy! Gee! Why, if I signed in a half hour late from that bum suttler's canteen, I guess it was only the time it took me digestin' two quarts of the gut-wash they hand out there in the hope you won't know it from beer. No, sir, 'lazy son-of-a-bitch' from that guy is the talk no decent citizen with a bunch of guts is goin' to stand for."

Skert Lawton was known for a red-hot "burner," a "nigger driver." No doubt he was all this in addition to his brilliant attainments as an engineer. But the methods he applied to others he applied to himself. And the whole of him, brain and body, was for the enterprise they were all engaged in. Bat had intended to goad the demon of obstinate energy which possessed the man, and he succeeded.

Skert flung out his hand in a comprehensive gesture.

"Hell!" he cried. "That's no sort of talk anyway. I've been weeks on this thing. And I've got it to the last fraction. Big notion? Of course it is. Aren't we mostly concerned with big notions? Here, what are you asking? An inland boom with capacity for anything over a million cords. Well? It's damn ridiculous talking the size of the notion. This hollow is fixed right. Its bed is ten feet below the bed of the river. It's surrounded with a natural ridge on all sides a hundred and fifty feet high. There's a quarter mile below the hollow and the river bank, and the new mill extensions are just to the east of this ridge. It's well-nigh child's play. Nature's fixed it that way. Two cuttings, and a race-way on the river. We flood this. Feed it full of lumber in the summer with surplus from the cut and you've got that reserve for winter, so you can keep every darn machine grinding its guts out. What's the use talking? Big notion? Of course it is. We're out for big notions all the time. That's the whole proposition. Well?"

Bat grinned at the heated disgust in the man's tone.

"Sounds like eatin' pie," he retorted aggravatingly. "The cost? The labour? Time? You got those things?"

"It's right up at your office now." Skert's eyes widened in surprise at such a question. "It's not my way to play around."

"No." Bat's eyes refused seriousness.

"Oh, psha! This is no sort of time chewing these details. It's figgered to the last second, the last man, the last cent. I brought you to see things. Well, you've seen things. And if you're satisfied we'll quit right away. I've no spare play time."

There was no pretence of patience in Skert Lawton. He had looked for appreciation and only found doubt. He moved off.

Bat had done the thing intended. He had no intention of hurting the man. He understood the driving power of the mood he had stirred.

They moved off together.

"That's all right, Skert," he said kindly. "You've done one big thing. An' it's the thing Bull and I want—"

"Then why in hell didn't you say it instead of talking—notions?"

For all the sharpness of his retort, Skert was mollified. Bat shook his head and a shrewd light twinkled in his eyes.

"You're a pretty bright boy, Skert," he said. "But you're brightest when you're riled."

They had gained the river bank where booms lined the shore, and scores of men were rafting. They had left the water-logged hollow behind them, and debouched on the busy world of the mill. Ahead lay the new extensions where the saws were shrieking the song of their labours upon the feed for the rumbling grinders. It was a township of buildings of all sizes crowding about the great central machine house.

They crossed the light footbridge over the "cut in" from the river, and moved along down the main highway of the northern shore.

Both were pre-occupied. The engineer was listening to the note of his beloved machinery. Bat was concerned with any and every movement going on within the range of his vision. They walked briskly, the lean engineer setting a pace that kept the other stumping hurriedly beside him.

Abreast of the mill they approached a new-looking, long, low building. It was single storied and lumber built, with a succession of many windows down its length. The hour was noon. And men were hurrying towards its entrance from every direction.

Bat watched interestedly.

"They seem mighty keen for their new playground," he said at last, with a quick nod in the direction of the recreation house.

The engineer came out of his dream. His mournful eyes turned in the direction indicated and devoured the scene. Then he glanced down at the squat figure stumping beside him.

"Guess that's so. But not the way you figgered when you got that fool notion of handing 'em a playhouse," he said roughly. "If you pass a hog a feather bed, it's a sure thing he'll work out the best way to muss it quick."

"How? I don't get you?"

There was no humour in Bat's eyes now.

"They call it a 'Chapel'," Skert said dryly. "They've surely got preachers, but they don't talk religion. Maybe that's sort of new to you, here. It isn't across the water where I come from. Guess you think those boys are racing out to get a game of checkers, or billiards, or cards, or some other fool play you reckoned to hand 'em to make 'em feel good." He shook his head. "They're not. They've turned their 'Chapel' into a sort of parliament. Every dinner hour there's a feller, different fellers most all the time, gets up and hands 'em out an address. It's short, but red hot. The afternoon shift in the mill is given up to brightening up their fool brains on it. And when evening comes along, and they've their bellies full of supper and beer, they get along to the 'Chapel' and they debate the address, handing out opinions and notions just as bellies guide 'em."

"And the addresses. What are they mostly? On the work? The trade they're working at?"

A world of pity looked out of Skert's eyes as he surveyed the man he believed to be the greatest organiser the mill industry had ever seen. He shook his head.

"Work? Not on your life! Socialism, Communism—Revolution!"

Bat spat out a stream of tobacco juice. He was startled.

"But I ain't heard tell of any sort of unrest gettin' busy. We're payin' big money. It's bigger than the market. They got—"

"Best talk to Sternford when you get back up there to your office. He's got the boys sized right up to the last hair of their stupid heads. But I'll hand you something I've reckoned to hand you a while back, only I wanted to be sure. There's nothing of this truck about the 'hands' of the old mill. It's the new hands you've been collecting from the forests. We've grown by two thousand hands in the past year or so. And they're so darn mixed I wouldn't fancy trying to sort 'em. They come from all parts. The world's been talking revolution since ever these buzzy-headed Muscovites reckoned to start in grabbing the world's goods for themselves. Well, it's a hell of a long piece here to Labrador, but it's found its way, and the mutton-brained fools who're supposed to play around that shanty you handed 'em are recreating themselves talking about it in there. Here, come right over to that window. It's open."

Perhaps Skert was enjoying himself. Certainly his mournful eyes were less mournful as he led his chief over to the open window. Bat had had his innings with him. He was planning the game and hitting hard in his turn.

"The enemy of the world, of more particularly the worker is the—CAPITALIST!"

The words were hurled from the platform of the recreation room at the heads of the listening throng below and reached the open window just as Lawton and his chief came up to it. There was applause following this profound announcement, and Skert turned on his companion.

"Well?" he demanded, in a tone of biting triumph.

They had reached the window at the psychological moment. Nothing could have suited his purpose better.

Bat turned away abruptly. It was as if some fierce emotion made it impossible for him to remain another second. His heavy brows depressed, and his deep-set eyes narrowed to gimlet holes. Skert pursued him. Once clear of the window, and beyond earshot, Bat flung his reply with all the passionate force of his fighting nature.

"The lousy swine!" he cried. "I'll close that place sure as—hell."

Skert shook his head as they walked on.

"No, you won't," he said. "Guess you aren't crazy. You'll talk this over with Sternford. And when you've talked it some, you'll keep that place running, and let them talk. It's best that way. But I've got tab of most of the speakers, and I've located where they come from. Most of them have sometime worked for the Skandinavia. Maybe that's the reason of their talk. Maybe even Skandinavia's glad they're talking that way here on Labrador. I don't know. But—well, I'll have to quit you here. They're setting up the two big new machines, and it don't do leaving them long. So long. Anything else you need to know about that recreation room, why, I guess I can hand it to you."

* * * * *

Bull Sternford laid the telegram aside while a shadowy smile hovered about his firm lips. Then he settled himself back in his chair, and gave himself up to the thoughtful contemplation of the brilliant sunlight, and the perfect, steely azure of the sky beyond the window opposite him.

The change in the man was almost magical. The hot-headed, determined, fighting lumber-jack whom Father Adam had rescued from furious homicide had hidden himself under something deeper than the veneer which the modest suit of conventional life provides. It was the subtle change that comes from within which had transformed him. It was in his eyes. In the set of his jaws. It was in the man's whole poise. His resources of spiritual power; his mental force; his virility of personality. All these things were concentrated. They were no longer sprawling, groping, seeking the great purpose of his life as they had been in the lumber camp of the Skandinavia.

A feeling akin to triumph filled the man's heart as he gazed out upon the pleasant light of Labrador's late summer day. In something like twelve months he had thrust leagues along the road he meant to travel. And his progress had been of a whirlwind nature. It had been work, desperate, strenuous work. It had been the double labour of intensive study combined with the necessary progress in the schemes laid down for the future of Sachigo. It had only been possible to a man of his amazing faculties, combined with the fact that Bat Harker and the mournful Skert Lawton had left him free from the clogging detail of the mill organisation and routine.

In twelve months he had crystallised the dreams and projects of his predecessor in the chair he was now occupying. In twelve months he had built up the shell of the great combination of groundwood and paper mills which was to have such far-reaching effect upon the paper trade of the world. And now, ahead of him was spread out the sea of finance upon which he must next embark. He felt that already giant's work had been done. But his yearning could never be satisfied by a mere measure of completion. He must embrace it all, complete it all.

Already he seemed to have lived with bankers and financial specialists, but he felt it was only the beginning of that which he had yet to do. He was unappalled. He was more than confident. He had discovered unguessed faculties for finance in himself. He had surprised himself as well as those others with whom he had come in contact. They had discovered in him all that which Father Adam had been so prompt to realise. They had found in him a young, untrained mind, untrained in their own calling, whose natural aptitude was amazing, and whose courage and confidence were beyond words. But greatest of all was the perception he displayed. They realised he never required the telling of more than half the story. Intuition and inspiration completed it for him without the labour of their words. The result of those twelve months was there for all to see. The lumberman had been translated into a hard, fighting, business man.

The train of the man's thought was broken by the unceremonious entry of Bat Harker. Bull turned. One swift glance into the grizzled face warned him his associate's mood was by no means easy. He, like everyone who came into contact with Bat, had learned to appreciate the volcanic fires burning under the lumberman's exterior.

Bull promptly fended any storm that might possibly be brewing. He held up his telegram and his eyes were smiling.

"The Skandinavia's on the move," he cried. And Bat recognised the battle note in the tone.

"How?"

Bull flung the message across the desk.

"The Skandinavia's representative is arriving on the Myra," he said. Then he added, "Elas Peterman says so."

"What for?"

Bat had picked up the message and stood reading it.

The other searched amongst his papers.

"I kind of forgot putting you wise before," he said. "There were two letters came along a week back. One was from Elas Peterman, of the Skandinavia folk, and the other from Father Adam. That message was 'phoned on from the headland. The letters didn't just concern a deal, so I set 'em aside. This message is different."

For the moment the affairs down at the recreation room were forgotten, and Bat contented himself with the interest of the moment.

"How?" he demanded again in his sharp way.

Bull laughed.

"Here," he cried, holding out the letters he had found. "I best pass you these. That's from Peterman. There's not much written, but a deal lies under the writing. You'll see he asks permission for a representative of the Skandinavia to wait on us. I wirelessed back, 'I'd just love to death meeting him.' By the same mail came Father Adam's yarn. An' I guess that's where the soup thickens. He says some woman's coming along from the Skandinavia folk. He guesses they're going to put up some proposition that looks like butting in on the plans laid out for Sachigo. But that don't seem to worry him a thing. I guess his letter wasn't written to hand us warning. He seems concerned for the woman. You'll see. He asks me to treat her gently. Firmly, yes. But also, 'very, very gently.' He says, 'you see, she's a woman'."

Bull waited while the other perused both letters. Then, as Bat looked up questioningly, he went on:

"That telegram got here half an hour back," he said. Then he shrugged. "The woman's on the Myra, and the vessel's been sighted off the headland. She'll be along in two hours."

"And what're you doin' about it?"

Bat's eyes were searching. Perhaps Father Adam's letter had told him something it had failed to tell the other.

"I'll see her right away," Bull laughed. "If she feels like stopping around and getting a sight of the things we're doin' she's welcome. She can put up at the visitor's house. It 'ud do me good for her to pass the news on to the folk she comes from."

But Bat's manner had none of the light confidence of the other. Bitter hatred of the Skandinavia was deeply ingrained in him. He shook his head.

"Keep 'em guessin'," he said. "It'll worry 'em—that way."

Then he passed the letters back, and dropped into the chair that was always his.

"But this woman," he went on, in obvious puzzlement. "It's—it's kind of new, I guess. Then there's Father Adam's message. That don't hand us much."

Bull's lightness passed.

"No," he said, "that message is queer. He knows about it. Yet he hasn't given her name or said a thing. Say—I like that phrase though. What is it? He says, 'treat her very, very gently—you see, she's a woman.' That's Father Adam right thro'—sure. But—well it's a pity he don't say more."

Bat nodded.

"You'll go along down an' meet her?"

"No." Bull shook his head decidedly. "You will."

Bat's eyes twinkled with a better humour than they had hitherto displayed.

"Why—me?"

"She comes from the Skandinavia. Guess Skandinavia would fancy me meeting their representative at the quay—quite a lot."

The argument met with Bat's entire approval. He pulled out a silver timepiece and consulted it.

"That's all right," he said, "I'll quit you in ha'f an hour. Say—I'm kind of guessin' there's other representatives of the Skandinavia around. I didn't guess ther' was much to Sachigo that I wasn't wise to. But that boy, Skert Lawton, showed me a play I hadn't a notion about. It's that darn play shanty I set up for the boys. I feel that mad about it I got a notion closing it right down. It worried me startin' it. It worries me more now. You see, I guess it's come of me lappin' up the ha'f-baked notions you find wrote in the news-sheets. Folks seem to be guessin' the worker needs somethin' more than his wage. They guess he's gotten some sort of queer soul needin' things he can't pay for. I allow I hadn't seen it that way myself. It mostly seemed to me a hell of a good wage and a full belly was mostly the need of a lumber-jack, and a dead sure thing all he deserved. But I fell for the news-sheet dope, an' set up that cursed recreation shanty. Now we're goin' to git trouble."

"How?"

Bull's ejaculation was sharp.

"They hold meetings there. They dope out Capital and Labour stuff there, instead of pushing games at each other. Guess they got the bug of politics an' are scratching themselves bad. It ain't the old Labrador guys, Skert says. It's mostly new hands passin' their stuff on. Skert reckons we got a whole heap of the Skandinavia 'throw-outs,' around here now. That don't say Skandinavia's workin' monkey tricks. Though they might be. You see, this sort of dope's been talked most everywhere, except on Labrador, years now. I guess we need to go through the bunch with a louse comb. But maybe the mischief's done. I'm dead crazy to shut that darn place down."

"Don't!" Bull was emphatic. "Shut it down and you'll make it a thousand times worse. No, sir. Let 'em shout. Let 'em blow off any old steam they need. Just sit tight. If it's the usual hot air there's nothing much coming of it up here on Labrador. There's this to remember. We're a thousand miles of hell's own winter, and a pretty tough sea, from the politicians who spend their lives befooling a crowd of unthinking muttons. Pay 'em well, and feed 'em well, and they've the horse sense to know there ain't no electric stoves out in the Labrador forests in winter. That way we don't need to worry. If it's the Skandinavia tricks it's different. They'll play the game to the finish. It don't signify a curse if you close down the recreation shanty or not. We've got to meet it as a competition, and fight it the way we'd fight any other."

Bat's eyes snapped.

"That's the kind of dope Skert Lawton's handed me," he protested.

"And Skert's a wise guy," came the prompt retort.

Quite suddenly Bat flung out his gnarled hands.

"Hell!" he cried violently. "Have we got to sit around like mush-men, while the rats are chawin' our vitals. Fifteen or sixteen year I've handled this lay-out without a growl I couldn't kick plumb out o' the feller who made it. Now—now, because of a fool play I made, I've got to set the kid gloves on my hands, sayin' 'thank you,' while the boys git up and plug me between the eyes. No, sir. It ain't my way. It's me for the shot gun in the stern of the gopher all the time. It's me to mush up the features of any hoboe who don't know better than to grin when I'm throwin' the hot air. I can't stand for the politics of labour where I hand out the wage. A man's a man to me, not one darn slobber of policy. I'm goin' to jump in on that talk. And when I'm thro'—"

"You'll get all the trouble in the world plumb on your neck." Bull's fine eyes were alight with humour. He revelled in the fighting spirit of the older man. "Here, Bat," he cried, "I'm a fool kid beside you. I don't begin to know my job when I think of you. But I'm up sides with all the politics games. Politics are ideals, notions. They haven't real horse sense within a mile. They're just the fool thoughts of folk who haven't better to do than sit around and think, and talk, an' see how they can make other folk conform to the things they think. That's all right. It's human nature in its biggest conceit, or it's another way of helping themselves without pushing a shovel. It don't matter which it is. But what I want to impress on you is, it's the biggest thing in life. It's the whole thing in life. Get a notion and think it hard enough, and talk it hard enough, and you'll hypnotise a hundred brains bigger than your own, and sweep the crowd with you. You'll even hypnotise yourself into believing the truth of a thing your better sense knows isn't true, never was true, an' couldn't be true anyway. And when you're fixed that way you'll die for your notion. Oh, a politician ain't yearning for any old grave. He wouldn't get an audience there. Politicians 'ud hate to die worse than a condemned man. But that's the queer of it; he'd die rather than give up a notion he's built up. He'd hate to death to push a blue pencil through it and—try again. All of which means, bar the doors of this recreation room parliament, and you'll start up a hundred such parliaments, and worse, throughout your enterprise here on Labrador, and you'll finish by wrecking the whole blessed concern."

If Bull looked for yielding he was disappointed. But he appreciated the twinkle that had crept into the lumberman's stern eyes. The answer he received was a curiously expressive grunt as the man took out his timepiece and consulted it. When he saw him rise abruptly from his chair, Bull felt that if his talk had not had the effect he desired it had not been wholly wasted.

"Guess I'll git goin'," Bat said shortly. Then he glanced out of the window, where he could plainly see the stream of the Myra's smoke as she came down the cove. "I'll bring your lady friend right up. Maybe she'll fancy the dope, which I 'low you can hand out good an' plenty."

With this parting shot he hurried from the room, and Bull fancied he detected the sound of a chuckle as the man departed.



CHAPTER VIII

AN AFFAIR OF OUTPOSTS

The business of making fast the vessel had no interest for Nancy McDonald. The thing that was about her, the thing that had leapt at her out of the haze hanging over the waters of Farewell Cove, as the Myra steamed to her haven, pre-occupied her to the exclusion of everything else. Her feelings were something of those of the explorer suddenly coming upon a new, unguessed world.

"Old Man" Hardy was at her side, waiting for the adjustment of the gangway. He was quietly observing her with a sense of enjoyment at the obvious surprise and interest she displayed. Besides, her beauty charmed him for all his years. And then had she not been entrusted to his especial care by those people who held powerful influence in all concerning the coastal trade upon which he was engaged?

Sachigo was not only a mill. It was a—city. This was the sum of Nancy's astonishing discovery. And the picture of it held her fascinated. She commented little, she had questioned little of the old skipper at her elbow. The thing she saw was too overwhelming. Besides, reticence was impressed upon her by the nature of her visit.

"It's a mighty elegant place," the seaman said at last.

The girl nodded. Then she smiled.

"I've seen trolley cars on the seashore. I've seen electric standards for lighting. What am I to see next on—Labrador?" she asked.

Captain Hardy laughed.

"You've to see the folks who've done it all," he replied. "And—there's one of 'em."

He indicated the squat figure of Bat Harker leaning against some bales piled on the quay. Nancy turned in that direction.

She discovered the rough-clad, almost uncouth figure of Bat. She noted his moving jaws as he chewed vigorously. She saw that a short stubble of beard was growing on a normally clean-shaven face, and that the man's clothing might have been the clothing of any labourer. But the iron cast of his face left her with sudden qualms. It was so hard. To her imagination it suggested complete failure for her mission.

"Is he the—owner? Is he—Mr. Sternford?" Her questions came in a hushed tone that was almost awed.

"No. That's Bat—Bat Harker. He's mill-boss."

"I see." There was relief in Nancy's tone. But it passed as the seaman continued.

"Maybe he's waiting for you though. Are they wise you're coming along? You don't see Bat around this quay without he's lookin' for some folk to come along on the Myra."

The gangway clattered out on to the quay, and the man moved toward it.

"We best get ashore," he said. "You see, mam, my orders are to pass you over to the folks waiting for you. That'll be—Bat. He'll pass you on to Sternford. I take it you'll sleep aboard to-night. Your stateroom's booked that way. We sail to-morrow sundown, which will give you plenty time looking around if you fancy that way. I allow Sachigo's worth it. One day it'll be a big city, if I'm a judge. Will you step this way?"

The seaman's deference was obvious. But Nancy remained oblivious to it. To her it was just kindliness, and she was more than grateful. But his final remark about Sachigo left her pathetically disquieted. For the first time in her life she doubted the all-powerful position of the people to whom she had sold her services.

"Yes, thanks," she returned, smiling to disguise her feelings. Then she added, "I'm glad we don't sail till to-morrow evening. You see, I couldn't leave—this, without a big look around."

* * * * *

The ship-master had hurried away.

Bat's deep-set eyes were steadily regarding the beautiful face before him. He was gazing into the hazel depths of Nancy's eyes without a sign. He had noted everything as the girl had come down the gangway. The height, the graceful carriage in the long plucked-beaver coat which terminated just above the trim ankles in their silken, almost transparent, hose. Not even at Captain Hardy's pronouncement of her name had he yielded a sign. And yet—

"Miss—Nancy McDonald?"

Bat's tone had lost its usual roughness. His mind had leapt back over many years to a time when he had been concerned for that name in a way that had stirred him to great warmth. He smiled. It was a baffling, somewhat derisive smile.

"You're the lady representing the—Skandinavia?" he added.

"Why, yes," Nancy cried, "and I feel I want to thank you for the privilege of obtaining even an outside view of your wonderful, wonderful place here."

Bat raked thoughtfully at the stubble on his chin.

"If you feel that way, Miss, it'll hand me pleasure to show you and tell you about things," he said. "You come right out of what the folks around here like to call the enemy camp, but it don't matter a little bit. Not a little bit. The whole of Sachigo's standin' wide open for you to walk through." Then he dashed his hand across his face to clear the voracious mosquitoes. "But if we stop around here mor'n ha'f another minute, the memory you'll mostly carry away with you from Labrador'll be skitters—an' nothing much else. Will you come right along up to Mr. Sternford's office? It's quite a piece up the hill, which helps to keep it clear of skitters an' things?"

Nancy laughed. Her early impression of the super-lumberjack had passed. The man's smile was beyond words in its kindliness. His deep, twinkling eyes were full of appeal.

"Why, surely," she assented. "If you'll show me the way I'll be glad. The flies and things are certainly thick, and as I intend leaving Sachigo with happy memories, well—"

"Come right along. I'm here for just that purpose."

As they made their way up the woodland trail they talked together with an easy intimacy. Nancy was young. She was full of the joy of life, full of real enthusiasm. And this rough creature with his ready smile appealed to her. His frank, open way was something so far removed from that which prevailed under the Skandinavia's rule.

For Bat, the walk up from the quayside was one of the many milestones in his chequered life. He talked readily. He listened, too. But under it all his thought was busy. The mystery of Father Adam's letter was no longer a mystery. He understood. But he was also puzzled. How had this thing come about? How had Father Adam learned of this visit? How had this girl become representative of the Skandinavia? A hundred questions flashed through his mind, for none of which he could find a satisfactory answer. But he smiled to himself as he thought of that last line in Father Adam's letter. "Treat her gently—firmly, yes—but very gently. You see, she's a—woman."

* * * * *

It was a moment likely to live with both in the years to come. For Nancy it was at least the final stage of her apprenticeship, the passing of the portal beyond which opened out the world she so completely desired to take her place in. Did it not mean the moment of shouldering the great burden of responsibility she had so steadfastly trained herself to bear? For Bull Sternford it had no such meaning. His powers had long since been tested. As a meeting with the representative of a rival enterprise it was merely an incident in the life to which he had become completely accustomed. Its significance lay in quite another direction.

Bat had taken his departure. He had witnessed the meeting of Nancy with this protege Father Adam had sent him from the dark world of the forests. And his witness of it had been with twinkling eyes, and the happy sense of an amusement he had never looked to discover in the presence of a representative of the Skandinavia. In an unexpressed fashion he realised he was gazing upon something in the nature of a stage play.

He had found Bull transformed. The office suit was gone. The man's hair was carefully brushed. He even suspected the liberal use of soap and water. And then, too, the heavy, rough boots had given place to shining patent leather. The youth and human nature of it pleased him. So he had departed to the workshops below with a voiceless chuckle, and a greater appreciation of the inevitability of the things of life.

Apart from Nancy's appreciation of that meeting, the woman in her sought to appraise the man she beheld. Her impression was far deeper than she knew. The height and muscular girth she beheld left her with a feeling that she was gazing upon one of the pictures her school-girl mind had created for the great men of Greek and Roman history. The clean-shaven, clear-cut face, with its fine eyes and broad brow, its purposeful mouth; these were details that had to be there, and were there. And somehow, as she realised them, and the sense of the man's power and personality forced itself upon her, her original confidence still further lessened, and she wondered not a little anxiously as to the outcome of this interview she had sought.

As for the man, his eyes had calmly smiled his spoken greeting. His handshake had been conventionally firm. But behind the mask of it all was one great surge of feeling. The vision of a beautiful, fur-coated figure, with the peeping lure of pretty ankles, the warm cap pressed low on the girl's head as though endeavouring to hide up the radiant framing of the sweetest, most beautiful face he felt he had ever seen, dealt all his preconceived purpose for the interview one final, smashing blow.

"I'm real glad to welcome you to Sachigo," he had begun. Then in a moment, the conventional gave place to the man in him. "But say," he added with a pleasant laugh, "we've a big piece of talk to make. You best let me help you remove that coat. The stove we always need to keep going here on Labrador makes this shanty hot as—very hot."

The manner of it sent convention, caution, business pose, scattering to the winds. The girl laughed and yielded.

"Why, thanks," she said readily. "I'm glad you reckon we're to make a big talk. You see," she added slyly, "I've been looking out of the window, and there's quite a drop below. Up to now I felt my fur might—be useful."

Bull laughed as he laid the coat aside. He had drawn up a comfortable lounging chair which Nancy was prompt to accept. For himself he stood at the window.

"Why, yes." He smiled. "I'd say it's a wise general who looks to his retreat before the encounter. I'd sort of half forgotten you come from the—Skandinavia."

"But I hadn't."

"No."

They both laughed. Nancy leant back in her chair. Her pose was all unconscious. She had toiled hard to keep pace with the sturdy gait of Bat in the ascent from the quay. Now she was glad of the ease the chair afforded.

"Why did you say that?" Nancy asked a moment later.

Bull spread out his great hands.

"The Skandinavia don't usually let folks forget they're behind them."

"Now that's just too bad. It—it isn't generous," the girl said half seriously.

"Isn't it?"

Bull left the window and took the chair that was usually Bat's. He set it so that he could feast his eyes on the beauty he found so irresistible.

"You see," he went on, "I've got a right to say that all the same. It's not the—the challenge of a—what'll I say—competitor? I once had the honour of drawing a few bucks a month on the paysheets of the Skandinavia. And folks reckoned, and I guess I was amongst 'em, that Skandinavia said to its people: 'Make good or—beat it.' That being so it makes it a sure thing they're not liable to leave you forgetting who's behind you."

His smile had gone. He was simply serious. This man had worked for her people, and Nancy felt he was entitled to his opinion.

"That's going to make my talk harder," she said. "I'm sorry. But there," she went on. "It doesn't really matter, does it? Anyway I want to tell you right away of the craze the sight of your splendid Sachigo has started buzzing in my head. Say, Mr. Sternford, it beats anything I ever dreamed, and I want to say that there's no one in the Skandinavia, from Mr. Peterman downwards, has the littlest notion of it. It's not a mill. It's a world of real, civilised enterprise. And it's set here where you'd look for the roughest of forest life. I just had no idea."

It was all said spontaneously. And the pleasure it gave was obvious in the man's eyes. He nodded.

"Yes," he said. "The construction of this mill, here on Labrador, isn't short of genius by a yard. And the genius of it lies where you won't guess."

Nancy's pretty eyes were mildly searching.

"You're the head of Sachigo," she suggested.

Bull's eyes lit.

"Sure," he cried, "an' I'm mighty proud that's so. But I'm not the genius of this great mill. No. That grizzled, tough old lumberman who toted you along up from the quayside is the brain of this organisation. He's a—wonder. There's times I want to laff when I think of it. There's times I'm most ready to cry. You see, you don't know that great feller. I'm just beginning to guess I do. He's a heart as big as a house, and the manner to scare a 'hold-up.' He's the grit of a reg'ment of soldiers and the mutton softness of a kid girl. He's the brain of a Solomon, and the illiteracy of a one day school kid. He's all those things, and he's the biggest proposition in men I've ever heard tell about. It's kind of tough. Don't you feel that way? He'll suck a pint of tobacco juice in the day, and blaspheme till your ears get on edge. And while your folks are guessing he'll put through a proposition that 'ud leave ha'f the world gasping."

Nancy stirred. This man's whole-hearted appreciation of another was something rather fine in her simple philosophy. The last thing she had contemplated in approaching the head of a rival enterprise was such talk as this. But somehow it seemed to fit the man. Somehow as she noted the squarely gazing eyes, and the power in every line of his features, she realised that whatever lines he chose to talk on, nothing could change the decision lying behind it all. She liked him all the better for that, and found herself drawing comparison between him and Elas Peterman to the latter's detriment.

"I like that," she cried impulsively. Then the colour rose in her cheeks at the thought of her temerity. "I guess he's all you say. Maybe some day I'll hear his side of things. I'd like to. You see—I felt I'd known him years when he brought me in here. Maybe you won't understand what that implies."

"I think I do."

Bull stood up from his chair and passed round his desk.

"Here, say, Miss McDonald," he went on, in his keen fashion. "You come from Skandinavia. And I guess you come on a pretty stiff proposition. It's going to be difficult for you to hand it me. Maybe you're young in the game. Well, it doesn't matter a thing. Now we're going to start right in talking that proposition, and I'm going to help you. But before that starts I just want to say this. You, I guess, are going right back on the Myra and she sails to-morrow, sundown. That means you'll stay a night in Sachigo—"

"I'm stopping on the vessel. It's all fixed."

Bull sat down at his desk.

"I'm kind of glad," he said, with a shade of relief. "It isn't that you aren't welcome to all the old hospitality Sachigo can hand you. You're just more than welcome. But Bat hasn't built his swell hotel yet," he laughed. "And as for us here, why, we 'batch' it. There isn't a thing in skirts around this place, only a Chink cook, a half-breed secretary, and a clerk or two, and a bum sort of decrepit lumber-jack who does my chores. So you see I'm—kind of relieved. Anyway you sleeping on the Myra makes it easy. Now there's a mighty big conceit to me, and it's all for this mill in our country's wilderness. And I just can't let you quit to-morrow night without showing you all it means. You've simply got to see the thing that's going to make the whole world's groundwood trade holler before we're through. You're my prisoner until you've seen the things I'm going to show you. Is it anyway agreeable?"

Nancy smiled delightedly.

"You couldn't drive me out of Sachigo till I've peeked into all your secrets down there," she said.

Bull leant forward with his arms outspread across the desk.

"Great!" he cried. "And," he added, "you shall see them all. The things I can't show you Bat will. And if I'm a judge that old rascal'll be tickled to death handing his dope out to you. But—let's get to business."

Nancy sat up. In a moment all ease was banished. She knew the great moment had come when she must prove herself to those who had entrusted her with her mission.

"Yes," she said, almost hurriedly. "I don't know the word Mr. Peterman sent you. And anyway it doesn't matter. I must put things my way. You are a great enterprise here. We are a great enterprise. It looks to us a pretty tough clash is bound to come between us in the near future, and—there should be no necessity for it. There's room—plenty of room—for both of us in our trade—"

She paused. The keen eyes of Bull were closely observing. He realised her attitude. Her words and tone were almost mechanical, as though she had schooled herself and rehearsed her lesson. And her voice was not quite steady. He jumped in with the swift impulse of a man whose rivalry could not withstand that sign of a beautiful girl's distress.

"Here," he cried, with that command so natural to him. "Just don't say another word. Let me talk. I guess I can tell you the things it's up to you to hand me. It'll save you a deal, and it'll hand me a chance to blow off the hot air that's mostly my way. This is the position. Peterman's wise to the things doing right here. The Skandinavia's up against years of cutting on the Shagaunty. The Shagaunty's played right out. You folks have got to open new stuff. It's my job to know all this. Very well. As I said, Peterman's at last got wise to us. He knows we look like flooding the market, and jumping right in on him. So—you're a mighty wealthy corporation—he figures to recognise us, and embrace us—with a business arrangement. That so?"

"Yes. A business arrangement."

The girl's relief was almost pathetic. Bull smiled.

"That's so. A business arrangement. Should I entertain one, eh? That's the question you're right here to ask. And you want to take back my answer." He paused. "Well, you're going to take back my answer. And I kind of feel it's the answer you'll like taking back. Say, Miss McDonald, I'm only a youngster, myself, but I guess I know what it means to set out on a work hoping and yearning to make good. Will it make good for you to go back to Elas Peterman and say the feller at Sachigo is coming right along down by the Myra to-morrow, and would be pleased to death to talk this proposition right out in the offices of the Skandinavia? Will it?"

Nancy's eyes lit. Their hazel depths were wells of thankfulness.

"Why, surely," she said. "You mean you're going to sail to-morrow?"

Bull laughed and his laugh was infectious. The girl was smiling her delight.

"That's so. I need to cross the Atlantic. I wasn't going till the Myra's next trip. I'll go to-morrow an' stop over in Quebec to see your people. It just means hurrying my choreman packing my stuff while I show you around to-morrow. That kind of fixes things, and if you'll hand me that pleasure I'd just love to show you around some this afternoon. There's a heap to see, and I don't fancy you missing any of it." He passed round the desk, and picked up the girl's coat and held it out invitingly. "Will you come right along?"

There was no denying him. Nancy looked up into his smiling eyes. She felt there was a lot she wanted to say, ought to say, on the business matter in hand. But it was impossible. And in her heart she was thankful.

"Why, I'd just love to," she said, and stood up from her chair.

Very tenderly, very carefully the man's hands helped her into her coat. And somehow Nancy was very glad the hands were big, and strong, and—yes—clumsy.



CHAPTER IX

ON THE OPEN SEA

The Myra laboured heavily. With every rise and fall of her high bows a whipping spray lashed the faces of those on deck. The bitter north-easterly gale churned the ocean into a white fury, and the sky was a-race with leaden masses of cloud. There was no break anywhere. Sky and sea alike were fiercely threatening, and the wind howled through the vessel's top gear.

Bull Sternford had been sharing the storm with the sturdy skipper on the bridge. He had been listening to the old man's talk of fierce experience on the coast of Labrador. It had all been interesting to the landsman in view of the present storm, but at last he could no longer endure the exposure of the shelterless bridge.

"It's me for the deck and a sheltered corner," he finally declared, preparing to pass down the iron "companion."

And the Captain grinned.

"I don't blame you," he bellowed in the shriek of the gale. "But I guess I'd as lief have it this way. It's better than a flat sea an' fog, which is mostly the alternative this time o' year. The Atlantic don't offer much choice about now. She's like a shrew woman. Her smile ain't ever easy. An' when you get it you've most always got to pay good. She can blow herself sick with this homeward bound breeze for all I care."

"That's all right," Bull shouted back at him. "Guess you've lost your sense of the ease of things working this coast so long. It 'ud be me for the flat sea and fog all the time. I like my chances taken standing square on two feet. So long."

He passed below, beating his hands for warmth. And as he went he glanced back at the sturdy, oil-skinned figure clinging to the rail of the bridge. The man's far-off gaze was fixed on the storm-swept sky, reading every sign with the intimate knowledge of long years of experience. It was a reassuring figure that must have put heart into the veriest weakling. But Bull Sternford needed no such support. In matters of life and death he was without emotion.

He scrambled his way to the leeward side of the engines where a certain warmth and shelter was to be had, and where a number of hardly tested deck chairs were securely lashed. It was the resting place of those few beset passengers who could endure no longer the indifferent, odorous accommodation of the Myra's saloon. Only one chair was occupied. For the rest the deck was completely deserted.

Bull's first glance at the solitary passenger was sufficient. The gleam of red hair under the fur cap told him all he wanted to know, and he groped his way along the slippery deck, and deposited his bulk safely into the chair beside Nancy McDonald.

"Say," he cried, with a cheerful grin, as he struggled with his rug, "this sort of thing's just about calculated to leave a feller feeling sympathy with the boy who hasn't more sense than to spend his time trying to climb outside more Rye whisky than he was built to hold. It makes you wonder at the fool thing that lies back of it all. I mean the fuss going on out yonder."

Nancy smiled round from amidst her furs.

"It does seem like useless mischief," she agreed readily. Then she laughed outright. "But to see you crawling along the deck just now, grabbing any old thing for support, and often missing it, was a sight to leave one wondering how much dignity owes to personality, and how much to environment. Guess environment's an easy win."

"Did I look so darn foolish?"

Bull's eyes were smiling, and Nancy laughed again.

"Just about as foolish as that fellow with the Rye whisky you were talking about."

The man settled himself comfortably.

"That's tough. And I guess I was doing my best, too. Say," he went on with a laugh, "just look at those flapping sea-gulls, or whatever they are out there. Makes you wonder to see 'em racing along over this fool waste of water. Look at 'em fighting, struggling, and using up a whole heap of good energy to keep level with this old tub. You know they've only to turn away westward to find land and shelter where they could build nests and make things mighty comfortable for themselves. I don't get it. You know it seems to me Nature got in a bad muss handing out ordinary sense. I'd say She never heard of a card index. Maybe Her bookkeeper was a drunken guy who didn't know a ledger from a scrap book. Now if She'd engaged you an' me to keep tab of things for Her, we'd have done a deal better. Those poor blamed sea-gulls, or whatever they are, would have been squatting around on elegant beds of moulted feathers, laid out on steam-heat radiators, feeding on oyster cocktails and things, and handing out the instructive dope of a highbrow politician working up a press reputation, and learning their kids the decent habits of folk who're yearning to keep out of penitentiary as long as the police'll let 'em. No. It's no use. Nature got busy. Look at the result. Those fool birds'll follow us till they're tired, in the hope that some guy'll dump the contents of the Myra's swill barrel their way. Then they'll have one disgusting orgy on the things other folks don't fancy, and start right in to fly again to ease their digestions. It's a crazy game anyway. And it leaves me with a mighty big slump in Nature's stock."

Nancy listened delightedly to the man's pleasant fooling.

"It's worse than that," she cried, falling in with his humour. "Look at some of them taking a rest, swimming about in that terribly cold water. Ugh! No, if we'd fixed their sense we'd have made it so they'd have had enough to get on dry land, like any other reasonable folk yearning for a rest."

The man studied the girl's pretty profile, and a great sense of regret stirred him that the Skandinavia had been able to buy her services. What a perfect creature to have been supported by in the work he was engaged on.

"That sounds good," he said. "Reasonable folks!" He shook his head. "Nature again. Guess we're all reasonable till we're found out. No. Even the greatest men and women on earth are fools at heart, you know."

The girl sat up as the vessel lurched more heavily and flung their chairs forward, straining dangerously.

"How?" she questioned, glancing down anxiously at the moorings of her chair.

"They're safe—so far," Bull reassured her. Then he leant back again, and produced and lit a cigar. "Guess I'll smoke," he said. "Maybe that'll help me tell you—'how.'"

The girl watched him light his cigar and her eyes were full of laughter.

"It's a real pity women can't sit themselves behind a cigar," she said at last, with a pretence of regret. "It's the wisest looking thing a man does. A cigarette kind of makes him seem pleasantly undependable. A pipe makes you feel he's full of just everyday notions. But a cigar! My! It sort of dazzles me when I see a man with a big cigar. I feel like a lowgrade earthworm, don't you know. Say," she cried, with an indescribable gesture of her gloved hands, "he handles that cigar, he sort of fondles it. He cocks it. He depresses it. He rolls it across his lips to the opposite corner of his mouth, and finally blows a thin, thoughtful stream of smoke gently between his pursed lips. And that stream is immeasurable in its suggestion of wise thought and keen calculation. I'd say a man's cigar is his best disguise."

Bull nodded.

"That's fine," he cried. "But you've forgotten the other feller. The man who 'chews.'"

Nancy laughed happily.

"Easy," she cried promptly. "When he of the bulged cheek gets around just watch your defences. He's mostly tough. He's on the jump, and hasn't much fancy for the decencies of life. The harder he chews the more he's figgering up his adversary. And when he spits, get your weapons ready. When the chewing man succeeds in life I guess he's dangerous. And it's because his force and character have generally lifted him from the bottom of things."

Bull shook his head in mock despair.

Nancy settled herself back in her chair.

"That's fixed it. Guess you'll need to tell me 'how.'"

"No, sir," she cried. "You can't go back. 'The greatest men and women in the world are fools at heart.' That's what you said."

"Yes. I seem to remember."

The man stirred and sat up. He folded the rug more closely about his feet. Then he turned with a whimsical smile in his eyes.

"Well?" he cried. "And isn't it so? What do we work, and fight, and hate for? What do we spend our lives worrying to beat the other feller for? Why do we set our noses into other folks' affairs and worry them to death to think, and act, and feel the way we do? And all the while it don't matter a thing. Of course we're fools. We'll hand over when the time comes, and the old world'll roll on, and it's not been shifted a hair's-breadth for our having lived, in spite of the obituaries the news-sheets hand out like a Sunday School mam at prize time. Say, here, it's no use fooling ourselves. Life's one great big thing that don't take shape by reason of our acts. What's the civilisation we love to pat ourselves on the back for? I'll tell you. It's just a thing we've invented, like—wireless telegraphy, or soap, or steam-heat; and it hands us a cloak to cover up the evil that man and woman'll never quit doing. Before we made civilisation a feller got up on to his hind legs and hit the other feller over the head with a club; and if he was hungry he used him as a lunch. Now we don't do that. We break him for his dollars and leave him and his poor wife and kids hungry, while we buy a lunch with the stuff we beat out of him. Why do we work? For one of two elegant notions. It's either to fill ourselves up with the things we've dreamt about when appetite was sharp set, and hate to death when we get, or it's to satisfy a conceit that leaves us hoping and believing the rest of the world'll hand us an epitaph like it handed no other feller since ever it got to be a habit burying up the garbage death produces. Why do we fight and hate? Because we're poor darn fools that don't know better, and don't know the easy thing life would be without those things. And as for settin' our noses into the affairs of other folk, that's mostly disease. But it isn't all. No, sir. There's more to it than that," he laughed. "If it was just disease it wouldn't matter a lot, but it isn't. There isn't a fool man or woman born into this world that doesn't reckon he or she can put right the fool notions and acts of other fools. And when the other feller persuades them the game's not the one-sided racket they guessed it was, then they get mad, and start groping and scheming how to boost their notions on to a world that's spent a whole heap of time fixing things, mostly foolish, to its own mighty good satisfaction. I say right here we're fools if we aren't crooks, which is the exception. There's a dandy world around us full of sun to warm us and food to eat, and birds to sing to us, and flowers and things to make us feel good. If we needed more I guess Providence would have handed it out. But it didn't. And so we got busy with our own notions till we've turned God's elegant creation into a home for crazes and cranks. I could almost fancy the Archangels hovering around, like those silly sea-gulls, with a bunch of straight-jackets to wrap about us when we jump the limit they figger we've a right to. Fools, yes? Why, I guess so—sure."

Nancy breathed a deep sigh.

"My, but that's a big say."

Then she broke into a laugh which found prompt response in the other. It was cut short, however. A sea thundered against the staunch side of the vessel and left her staggering. The girl's eyes became seriously anxious. The straining chairs held, and presently the deck swung up to a comparative level.

"I had visions of the—"

"Scuppers?" Bull laughed. "Yes. That sea's one of the elegant things Providence handed out for our happiness."

Nancy nodded.

"So man built things like the Myra, which, of course, was—foolish?"

"An' set out sailing around in a winter storm off Labrador, instead of basking in a pleasant tropical sun, which hasn't any—sense."

Bull chuckled.

"All because two mighty fine enterprises reckoned they'd common interests which were jeopardised by rivalry, which was also—foolishly?"

Bull's cigar ash tumbled into his lap.

"But not ha'f so foolish as the notion that a girl has to suffer the worries and dangers of one hell of a trip on the worst sea that God ever made to try and square the things between them."

Nancy shook her head.

"I can't grant that," she cried quickly.

"No?"

"I mean—oh, psha! Don't you see, or does your cynical philosophy blind you? We're fools, maybe. The things Providence sends us aren't the things we've got a notion for. Maybe we know better than Providence, and can't find happiness in the things it's handed us. What then? As you say, we start right in chasing happiness in the way we fancy. It seems to me the only real happiness in life is in doing. Ease, wealth, love, all the things folk talk and write about are just dreams of happiness that aren't real. Work, achievement, even if it's wrong-headed—that's life; that's happiness. That's why I'd say there's nothing foolish in a girl putting up with dangers and discomforts to bring two enterprises to an understanding, calculated to promote a greater achievement for both. It's my little notion of snatching a bunch of happiness for myself."

There was no laughter in Nancy's eyes now. They were quite serious. Her words were alive with vehemence. Bull was watching her intently, probing, in his searching way, the depths which her hazel eyes hinted at. The things she said pleased him. Her tone thrilled him. He wanted more.

"I wonder," he said, as he rolled the cigar across his lips in the way Nancy had laughingly pointed. "You reckon it's handed you happiness—this thing?"

The girl was stirred.

"Surely," she cried. "Later, when things get fixed up between the Skandinavia and Sachigo, I'll get a focus of my little share in the business of it—the achievement. Then I'll get warm all through with a glow of happiness because I—helped it along."

Bull nodded as he watched the rising colour in the perfect cheeks. The girl was very, very beautiful.

"Yes, I suppose you will," he said. Then he went on provocatively. "But do you guess it's always so? I mean that always happens? Isn't it to do with temperament? Now, take the forest-jacks. Do you guess they feel happiness in a tree dropped right? Do you guess there's happiness for the poor fool who don't know better than to spend his days in a forest risking his life boosting logs on the river jamb? Do you guess there's any sort of old joy for the feller turned adrift, when he's getting old in the tooth, and there's no room for him on the pay roll of the camp, in the thought that he was the best axeman the forest ever bred? It seems like a crazy sort of happiness that way. Happiness in achievement's great while the achieving's going on. But at the finish we get right back to Nature. And when that time comes Nature doesn't do much to help us out."

Nancy sat up.

"What are you doing? That great Sachigo!" she demanded challengingly. "You're building, building one magnificent enterprise. Is there happiness in it for you?"

"Sure," Bull admitted frankly. "Oh, yes. But I've no illusions," he said. "I don't go back on the things I said. Nature as she dopes out life couldn't hand me a hundredth part of the happiness I get that way. But when I'm through, like that lumber-jack who's struck off the pay roll, how's it going to be with me? A trained mind without the bodily ability to thrust on in the game of life. It'll be hell—just hell. The one hope is to die in harness. Like the forest-jack who drowns under the logs on the river, or who gets up against the other feller's knife in a drunken scrap. That way lies happiness. The rest is a sort of passing dream with the years of old age for regret."

The girl spread out her hands.

"I can't believe you feel that way," she cried, with something very like distress. "Oh, if I had your power, your ability. Why, I'd say there's no end to the things you could achieve, not only now, but right through, right through that time when you're old in body, but still strong in brain. A limited goal for achievement isn't the notion in my foolish head. Why, if I'd only the strength to knit socks for the folks who need them, there'd still be happiness and to spare. But let's keep to our own ground. The forest-jack. I guess you're one big man who employs thousands. What of those boys when they're struck off the—pay roll. Is there nothing to be achieved that way—nothing to last you to your last living moment? Think of their needs. Think of the happiness you could hand yourself in handing them comfort and happiness when they're—through. It's a thing I've promised myself, if luck ever hands me the chance. You've got the pity of their lives. Your words tell that. Well?"

The man had forgotten the storm. He had forgotten everything but the charm of the girl's hot enthusiasm. And the picture of superlative beauty she made in her animation.

He shook his head.

"It's a bully notion," he demurred, "but it's not for me. No. You see, I'm just a tough sort of man who's big for a scrap. I haven't patience or sympathy for the feller who don't feel the same. You've seen the forest boys?"

"I've been through the Shagaunty."

"Ah!"

Bull Sternford's ejaculation was sharp. The problem of Father Adam's letter was partially solved.

"Well, I guess you're a woman," he went on. "And I'd like to say right here a woman's sympathy is just about the best thing on this old earth. That's why I'd like to cry like a kid when I see it going out to the things that haven't any sort of excuse for getting it. It's good to hear you talk for those boys. It isn't they deserve it, but—as I said, you're a woman. Talk it all you fancy, but leave it at talk. Don't let it get a holt. Don't waste one moment of your hard earned happiness on 'em. I was a forest-jack. I know 'em. I know it—the life. And if you knew the thing I know you wouldn't harden all up as you listen to the things I'm saying:—"

"But—"

Bull flung his cigar away with vicious force.

"Let me say this thing out," he went on. "There's a man in the forest I know, every jack knows. He's a feller who sort of lives in the twilight. You see, he sort of comes and goes; and no one knows a thing about him, except he haunts the forests like a shadow. Well, he's settin' the notion you feel into practice—in a way. He's out for the boys. To help 'em, physically, spiritually, the whole time. They love him. We all love him to death. Well, ask him how far he gets. Maybe he'd tell you, and I guess his story 'ud break the heart of a stone image. He'll tell you—and he speaks the truth—there isn't a thing to be done but heal 'em, and feed 'em, and just help 'em how you can. The rest's a dream. You see, these jacks come from nowhere particular. They take to the forests because it's far off; and it's dark, and covers most things up. And they go nowhere particular, except it's to the hell waiting on most of us if we don't live life the way that's intended for us. No. Quit worrying for the forest-jack. Maybe life's going to hand you all sorts of queer feelings as you go along. And the good heart that sees suffering and injustice is going to ache mighty bad. The forest wasn't built for daylight, and the folks living there don't fancy it. And there isn't a broom big enough in the world to clean up the muck you'll find there."

"You're talking of Father Adam?"

Nancy's interest had redoubled. It had instantly centred itself on the man she had met in the Shagaunty forests. The lumber-jacks were forgotten.

"Yes." Bull nodded. "Do you know him?" There was eagerness in his question.

"I met him on the Shagaunty."

The man had produced a fresh cigar. But the renewed heavy rolling of the vessel delayed its lighting. Nancy gazed out to sea in some concern.

"It's getting worse," she said.

Bull struck a match and covered it with both hands.

"It seems that way," he replied indifferently. Then after a moment he looked up. His cigar was alight. "He's a great fellow—Father Adam," he said reflectively.

"He's just—splendid."

The girl's enthusiasm told Bull something of the thing he wanted to know.

"Yes," he said. "He's the best man I know. The world doesn't mean a thing to him. Why he's there I don't know, and I guess it's not my business anyway. But if God's mercy's to be handed to any human creature it seems to me it won't come amiss—Say!"

He broke off, startled. He sat up with a jump. A great gust of wind broke down upon the vessel. It came with a shriek that rose in a fierce crescendo. His startled eyes were riveted upon a new development in the sky. An inky cloud bank was sweeping down upon them out of the north-east, and the wind seemed to roar its way out of its very heart.

The vessel heeled over. Again the wind tore at the creaking gear. It was a moment of breathless suspense for those seated helplessly looking on. Then something crashed. A vast sea beat on the quarter and deluged the decks, and the chairs were torn from their moorings.

Bull Sternford was sprawling in the race of water. Nancy, too, was hurled floundering in the scuppers. They were flung and beaten, crashing about in the swirling sea that swept over the vessel's submerged rail.

Bull struggled furiously. Every muscle was straining with the effort of it. A fierce anxiety was in his eyes as he fought his way foot by foot towards the saloon companion. The handicap was terrible. There was practically no foothold, for the vessel was riding at an angle of something like forty-five degrees. Then, too, he had but one hand with which to help himself along. The other was supporting the dead-weight of the body of the unconscious girl.

At last, breathless and nearly beaten, he reached his goal and clutched desperately at the door-casing of the companion. He staggered within. And as he did so relief found expression in one fierce exclamation.

"Hell!" he cried. And clambered down, bearing his unconscious burden into the safety of the vessel's interior.



CHAPTER X

IN QUEBEC

It was the final stage of her journey. Nancy was on her way up from the docks, where she had left the staunch Myra discharging her cargo.

It was that triumphant return to which she had always looked forward, for which she had hoped and prayed. Her work was completed. It had been crowned with greater success than she had dared to believe possible. Yet her triumph somehow found her unelated, even a shade depressed.

A belated sense of humour battled with her mood. There were moments when she wanted to laugh at herself. There were others when she had no such desire. So she sat gazing out of the limousine window, as though all her interest were in the drab houses lining the way, and the heavy-coated pedestrians moving along the sidewalks of the narrow streets through which they were passing.

It was winter all right, for all no snow had as yet fallen, and the girl felt glad that it was so. It suited her mood.

Once or twice she took a sidelong glance at the man seated beside her; but Bull Sternford's mood was no less reticent than her own. Once she encountered the glance of his eyes, and it was just as the vehicle bumped heavily over the badly paved road.

"We can do better in the way of roads up at Sachigo," he said with a belated smile.

"You surely can," Nancy admitted readily. "The roads down here in the old town are terrible. This old city of ours could fill pages of history. It's got beauties, too, you couldn't find anywhere else in the world. But it seems to need most of the things a city needs to make it the place we folk reckon it is."

She went on at random.

"Do you always keep an automobile in Quebec?" she asked.

Bull shook his head.

"Hired," he said.

"I see."

Bull's eyes twinkled.

"Yes," he went on, "when I make this old city it's with the purpose of driving twenty-four hours work into twelve. An automobile helps that way."

"And you're wasting all this time driving me up to my apartments?" Nancy smiled. "I'm more indebted than I guessed."

The man's denial was instant.

"No," he said. "Your apartments are about two blocks from the Chateau. But tell me, when'll you be through making your report to Peterman?"

Nancy's depression passed. She was caught again in the interest of everything.

"Why, to-day—surely," she said. "You see, I want to get word to you right away."

Bull nodded.

"That's fine," he said. "It's not my way leaving things lying around either. I'll be on the jump to get through before sailing time to that little old country across the water. But tell me. That report. After it's in you'll have made all the good you reckon to? And then you, personally, cut right out of this thing?"

His manner gave no indication of the thing in his mind.

"Oh, yes," Nancy replied happily. "You see, I've bearded you—only you've no beard—in your fierce den up in Sachigo. And I've—and you've come right down here to Quebec with me to discuss with my people the thing they want to discuss with you. They didn't think I—they didn't hope that. Maybe I've done better than they expected. Why, when I hand the news to Mr. Peterman he'll—he'll—oh, I'm just dying to see his face when I tell him."

"You—haven't wired him already?"

"No. The news was too good to send by wire."

For a moment the man contemplated the simple radiant creature beside him. She was so transparently happy. And the sight of her happiness satisfied him.

"It'll—astonish him, eh?"

"Astonish him?" Nancy laughed. "That doesn't say a thing. I shouldn't wonder if he refused to believe me."

"And you'll get—promotion? Promotion—in Skandinavia?"

The girl's eyes sobered on the instant.

"Surely. Why not?"

"Yes. Why not?"

Just for a moment Nancy hesitated. Then her challenge came incisively.

"What do you mean?"

But the man smilingly shook his head.

"You want promotion under Peterman—in the Skandinavia?"

Nancy's eyes widened.

"Why shouldn't I? The Skandinavia's everything to me. It ought to be everything. Isn't that so? Now, I wonder what you mean?" she went on, after the briefest pause. "Are you talking that way just because you are a rival concern?" She shook her head. "That's no affair of mine. But wait while I tell you. Try and think yourself a young girl without folks that count, with a pretty tough world laid out in front of her, and with a healthy desire to dress, and eat the same as any other girl of her age. She's given a chance in life to make good, to gather round her all those things she needs, by—the Skandinavia. Well, how would you feel? Wouldn't you want that—promotion? Yes. I want it. I want it with all my heart. The Skandinavia gave me my first start. They've been very, very good to me. I've big room in my heart for them. Their work's my work all the time. I've nothing but gratitude for Mr. Peterman."

"Yes." Bull's smile had passed. He was thinking of Nancy's feeling of gratitude towards the Swede—Peterman.

He turned away, and the grey wintry daylight beyond the window seemed to absorb him. He was possessed by a mad desire to fling prudence to the winds and then and there point out the wrong he felt she was committing against the country that had bred her in spending her life in the service of these foreigners. But he knew he must refrain. It was not the moment. And somehow he felt she was not the girl to listen patiently to such ethics as he preached when their force was directed against those who claimed her whole loyalty and gratitude.

To Nancy it seemed as though some shadow had arisen between them. She was a little troubled at the thing she had said. But somehow she had no desire to withdraw a single word of it.

The car had passed out of the old part of the city. And Nancy realised it was ascending the great hill where the Chateau Hotel looked out over the old citadel and the wide waters of the busy St. Lawrence river. In a few minutes the happy companionship of the past few days would be only a memory.

It was only a little way to her apartments now. Such a very little way. Yes. The porter would be there. He would take her trunks and baggage, and then her door would close behind her, and—She remembered that moment at which she had awakened to consciousness in this man's strong arms in the poor little saloon of the storm-beaten Myra. She remembered the embracing strength of them, and the way she had thrilled under their pressure. It had been all very wonderful.

"Say!"

Bull Sternford had turned back from the window. He was smiling again.

"Yes?" The girl was all eager attention.

"I was wondering," Bull went on. "Maybe you'll' fancy hearing how things are fixed after I see Peterman?"

"I'll be ever so glad. There's the 'phone. You can get me most any time after business hours. I don't go out much. I—"

Nancy broke off to glance out of the window. The automobile had slowed.

"Why, we're at my place," she cried. And the man fancied he detected disappointment in her tone.

The car stopped before the apartment house, and Bull hurled himself at the litter of the girl's belongings strewn about their feet. A few moments later they were standing together on the sidewalk surrounded by the baggage.

Bull gazed up at the building.

"You live here?" he asked at random.

Nancy nodded.

"Yes. It isn't much. But some day, maybe, I'll be able to afford a swell apartment with—"

"Sure you will," Bull agreed, as they passed up the steps to the entrance doors. "But meanwhile I mostly need your 'phone number of this," he added with a laugh.

The baggage was left to the porter's care, and they stood together in the hallway. Bull's youthful stature was overshadowing for all Nancy was tall. Somehow the girl was glad of it. She liked his height, and the breadth of his great shoulders, and the power of limbs his tweed suit was powerless to disguise.

She moved across to the porter's office and wrote down her 'phone number while the man looked on. But he only had eyes for the girl herself. At that moment her telephone number was the last thing he desired to think about.

She stood up and offered him the paper.

"You won't forget it that way," she said, with a smile.

"No."

Bull glanced down at it. Then he looked again into the smiling eyes.

"Thanks," he said. "I'll ring up." Then he held out a hand. "So long."

He was gone. The glass door had swung to behind him. Nancy watched him pass into the waiting automobile, and responded to his final wave of the hand. Then she turned to the porter, and her smile had completely vanished.

* * * * *

Nathaniel Hellbeam stood up. He had been seated at Elas Peterman's desk studying the papers which his managing director had set out for his perusal. His gross body hung over the table for a moment as he reached towards his hat. He took his gloves from inside it and commenced to put them on.

"The Myra? You say she is in?" he asked in his guttural fashion. "This girl? This girl who is to buy up this—this Sachigo man," he laughed. "Is she arrived?"

The man's eyes were alight with unpleasant derision. Peterman gave no heed. The man's arrogance was all too familiar to him.

"I've not heard—yet," he said. "She should be."

"You not have heard—yet?" The challenge was superlatively offensive. "You a beautiful secretary have. You lose her for weeks—months. Yet you do not know of her return—yet? Sho! You are not the man for this beautiful secretary. She for me is—yes? Hah!"

Peterman smiled as was his duty.

"I shall be glad to get her back," he said quietly. "But I haven't heard from her at all. And—well, she's not the sort of woman to bombard with telegrams. She's out on a difficult job and I felt it best to leave her to it. I shall hear when she's ready, I guess she'll be right along in to tell me personally. Maybe—"

He broke off and picked up the telephone whose buzzer was rattling impatiently on the desk.

"Hullo!" he said softly. "Oh, yes. Oh, how are you? So glad you've got back. What sort of passage did—oh, bad, eh? Well, well; I'm sorry. Oh, you're a good sailor. That's fine. Right away? You'll be over right away? Wouldn't you like to rest awhile? All right, I see. Yes, surely I'll be glad. I just thought—oh, not at all. You see, if you were a man I wouldn't be concerned at all. Yes, come right along whenever you choose. Eh? Successful? You have been? Why, that's just fine. Well, I'm dying to hear your news. Splendid. I shall be here. G'bye."

Peterman set the 'phone down. His smiling eyes challenged those of the man who a moment before had derided him.

"Well?"

Hellbeam's impatience was without scruple at any time.

"She's got back all right, and she's succeeded far better than you hoped. Better than she hoped herself. But—no better than I expected."

The other's eyes snapped under the quiet satisfaction of the man's reply.

"Ah, she has. Does she say—yes?"

Elas shook his dark head.

"No. She's coming right over to tell me the whole story."

"Now?"

"In a while."

Elas Peterman knew his position to the last fraction when dealing with Nathaniel Hellbeam. He knew it was for him to obey, almost without question. But somehow, for the moment, his Teutonic self-abnegation had become obscured. He was yielding nothing in the matter of this woman to anyone. Not even to Nathaniel Hellbeam whom he regarded almost as the master of his destiny.

Perhaps the gross nature of the financier possessed a certain sympathy. Perhaps even there was a lurking sense of honour in him, where a woman, whom he regarded as another man's property, was concerned. Again it may simply have been that he understood the other's reticence, and it suited him for the moment to restrain his grosser inclinations. He laughed. And it was not an hilarious effort.

"Oh, yes," he said. "You will see her first. That is as it should be. Later, we both will talk with her. Well—good luck my friend."

Hellbeam thrust his hat on his great head and strutted his way across to the door.

"These people must be bought. Or—" he said, pausing before passing out—

"Smashed!"

Hellbeam nodded.

"It suits me better to—buy."

"Yes. You want to come into touch with—the owner."

"Yes."

The gross figure disappeared through the doorway.

Peterman did not return to his desk. He crossed to the window and stood gazing out of it. His hands were thrust deep into his pockets. And his fingers moved nervously, rattling the contents of them. He was a goodly specimen of manhood. He was tall, and squarely erect, and carried himself with that military bearing which seems to belong to all the races of Teutonic origin. It was only in the study of the man's face that exception could be taken. Just now there was none to observe and he was free from all restraint.

His dark eyes were smiling, for his thoughts were streaming along the channel that most appealed. He was thinking of the beauty of the girl who was about to return to him, and it seemed to him a pity she was so simply honest, so very young in the world as he understood it. Then her ambition. It was—but he was rather glad of her ambition. Ambition might prove his best friend in the end. In his philosophy an ambitious woman could have no scruple. Anyway it seemed to him that ambition pitted against scruple was an easy winner. He could play on that, and he felt he knew how to play on it, and was in a position to do so. She had come back to him successful. He wondered how successful.

He moved from the window and passed over to the desk, where he picked up his 'phone and asked for a number.

"Hullo! Oh, that Bennetts? Oh, yes. This is Peterman—Elas Peterman speaking. Did you send that fruit, and the flowers I ordered to the address I gave you? Yes? Oh, you did? They were there before eleven o'clock. Good. Thanks—"

He set the 'phone down and turned away. But in a moment he was recalled. It was a message from downstairs. Nancy McDonald wished to see him.

* * * * *

Peterman was leaning back in his chair. Nancy was occupying the chair beside the desk which had not known her for several months.

It was a moment of stirring emotions. For the girl it was that moment to which she had so long looked forward. To her it seemed she was about to vindicate this man's confidence in her, and offer him an adequate return such as her gratitude desired to make. And deep down in her heart, where the flame of ambition steadily burned, she felt she had earned the promised reward, all of it.

The man was concerned with none of these things. He was not even concerned for the girl's completed mission. It was Nancy herself. It was the charming face with its halo of red hair, and the delightful figure so rounded, so full of warmth and charm, which concerned him.

He had no scruple as he feasted his eyes upon her. He did nothing to disguise his admiration, and Nancy, full of her news and the thrilling joy of her success, saw nothing of that which a less absorbed woman, a more experienced woman, must unfailingly have observed.

"You've a big story for me," Peterman said, with a light laugh. "Have you completed an option on—Sachigo? You look well. You're looking fine. Travelling in Labrador seems to have done you good."

Nancy's smiling eyes were alight with delight.

"Oh, yes," she said. "It's done me good. But then I've had a success I didn't reckon on. Maybe it's made all the difference. It was a real tough journey. I'm not sure you'd have seen me back at all if it hadn't been for Mr. Sternford."

"How?"

The man's smiling eyes had changed. Their dark depths were full of sharp enquiry. Nancy read only anxiety.

"Why, we were sitting on deck, and it was storming. It was just terrible. We lurched heavily and shipped a great sea. Our chairs were flung into the scuppers by the rush of water, and I—why, I guess I was beaten unconscious and drowning when he got hold of me. He just fought his way to safety. I didn't know about it till I was safe down in the saloon. I woke up then, and he was carrying me—"

"Sternford?"

The change in the man's eyes had deepened. Then his smile came back to them. But that, too, was different. It was curiously fixed and hard.

"You've gone a bit too fast for me," he said. "I don't get things right. Sternford, the man running Sachigo was with you on the Myra? He's here—in Quebec?"

It was Nancy's great moment.

"Yes," she said, with a restraint that failed to disguise her feelings. "He's come down to discuss a business arrangement between the Skandinavia and his enterprise. That's what you wanted—isn't it?"

The man leant forward in his chair. He set his elbows on the desk and supported his chin in both hands. His smile was still there, and his eyes were steadily regarding her. But they expressed none of the surprise and delight Nancy looked for. They were smiling as he literally forced them to smile.

"You brought him down with you—to meet us?" he asked slowly.

The girl nodded.

"You did your work so well that he entertained the notion sufficiently to come along down—with you?"

"I—I—he's come down for that purpose."

The man's eyes were searching.

"Where is he?"

"At the Chateau. He's waiting to hear from you for an appointment."

Peterman flung himself back in his chair with a great laugh. Nancy missed the mirthless tone of it.

"Say, my dear," he cried at last. "How did you do it? How in—You're just as bright and smart as I reckoned. You've done one big thing and I guess you've earned all the Skandinavia can hand you. But—"

He broke off, and his gaze drifted away from the face with its vivid halo. The wintry daylight beyond the window claimed him, and Nancy waited.

"How did you persuade him to ship down on the Myra with you?" he asked, after a moment's thought.

"I didn't persuade him. He volunteered."

"Volunteered?"

"Yes. He was coming down on her next trip. You see, he's making England right away. He guessed he'd come along down with me instead. He seemed keen set to discuss this thing with you."

"I see. Keen set, eh? Keen set to talk with me?"

The man shook his head. It was not denial. It was the questioning of something left unspoken.

The girl became anxious. Somehow a sense of disappointment was stirring.

"Is there anything wrong?" she asked at last, as the man remained silent.

Peterman shook his head again.

"Not a thing, my dear," he said. "No. You've done everything. You couldn't have done more if—if you'd been the most experienced woman schemer in big business. You went up to prepare the ground for our business. Well, you prepared it in a way I'd never have guessed. You've brought this hard business head, Bull Sternford, right down out of his fortress to meet us on our business proposition. Guess only you could have done that." He laughed. "And this man saved your life, eh? And he carried you in his arms to—safety. Say he was lucky. That's something any man would be crazy to do. Well, well, I—"

He rose from his chair and passed round to the window where he stood with back turned. Nancy's gaze followed him. For all his praise she was disturbed.

The man at the window saw nothing of that upon which he gazed. His eyes were unsmiling now that the girl could no longer observe them. They were the eyes of a man of unbridled jealous fury. They were burning with an insensate hatred for the man who had hitherto been only a stranger rival in business.

Oh, he understood. Was it likely that this Bull Sternford was going to yield for a business proposition in this fashion at the request of a formidable rival? Was he going to change all his plans at the bidding of the Skandinavia, and seize the first boat to come and tell them he was prepared to fall for any plans they might design to beat him? Not likely. No. It was the girl he had fallen for. He had changed his plans for her, and for his nerve he had reaped a harvest such as he, Peterman, had never reaped. He had held this beautiful creature in his arms, this innocent, red-haired child, whom he, Peterman, had marked down for his own. For how long? And she was all unconscious. Oh, it was maddening, infuriating. And—

Suddenly he came back to the desk. Nancy was relieved as she beheld the familiar smiling kindness in his eyes.

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