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Vane of the Timberlands by Harold Bindloss

Part 4 out of 6

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profitable to act as your understudy; but a fairly proficient carpenter
might have bungled the matter."

Vane looked embarrassed.

"Let it pass. I've a pernicious habit of expressing myself unfortunately.
Anyhow, we'll start again on those planks the first thing to-morrow."

He stretched out his aching limbs beside the fire, and languidly watched
the firs grow dimmer and the mists creep in ghostly trails down the
steep hillside. Presently Carroll broke the silence.

"Wallace," he advised, "wouldn't it be wiser if you met that fellow
Horsfield to some extent?"

"No," Vane answered decidedly. "I have no intention of giving way an
inch. It would only encourage the man to press me on another point, if I
did. I'm going to have trouble with him, and it seems to me that the
sooner it comes the better. There's room for only one controlling
influence in the Clermont Mine."

Carroll smoked in silence for a while. His comrade had successfully
carried out most of the small projects he had undertaken in the bush, and
though fortune had, perhaps, favored him, he had every reason to be
satisfied with the result of his efforts as a prospector. He had
afterward held his own in the city, mainly by simple unwavering
determination. Carroll, however, realized that to guard against the wiles
of a clever man like Horsfield, who was unhampered by any scruples, might
prove a very different thing.

"In that case, it might be as well to stay in Vancouver as much as
possible and keep your eye on him," he suggested.

"The same idea has struck me since we sailed. The trouble is that until
I've decided about the pulp mill he'll have to go unwatched--for the same
reason that prevented you from holding up for me and steaming the plank."

"If any unforeseen action of Horsfield's made it necessary, you could let
this pulp project drop."

"You ought to understand why that's impossible. Drayton, Kitty and
Hartley count on my exertions; the matter was put into my hands only on
the condition that I did all that I could. They're poor people and I
can't go back on them. If we can't locate the spruce, or it doesn't seem
likely to pay for working up, there's nothing to prevent my abandoning
the undertaking; but I'm not at liberty to do so just because it would be
a convenience to myself. Hartley got my promise before he told me where
to search."

Carroll changed the subject.

"It might have been better if you had made the directors' qualification
higher. You would have been more sure of Horsfield then, because he would
have been less likely to do anything that might depreciate the value of
his stock."

"I had to get a few good names to make it easier for men of standing to
join me. They wouldn't have been willing to subscribe for too many shares
until they saw how the thing would go. Anyhow, so long as he's a
director, Horsfield must hold a stipulated amount of stock. He's actually
holding a good deal."

"The limit's rather a low one. Suppose he sold out down to it; he
wouldn't mind having the value of the rest knocked down, if he could make
more than the difference by some jobbery. Of course, we're only a small
concern, and we'll have to raise more capital sooner or later. I've an
idea that Horsfield might find his opportunity then."

"If he does, we must try to be ready for him," Vane replied. "I sat up
most of last night with the spritsail sheet in my hand, and I'm going
to sleep."

He strolled away to the tent they had pitched on the edge of the bush,
but Carroll sat a while smoking beside the fire with a thoughtful face.
He was suspicious of Horsfield and foresaw trouble; more particularly now
that his comrade had undertaken a project which seemed likely to occupy a
good deal of his attention. Hitherto, Vane had owed part of his success
to his faculty of concentrating all his powers upon one object.

They rose at dawn the next morning, and by sunset had fitted the new
planks. Two days later, they sailed northward, and eventually they found
the rancherie Hartley mentioned. They had expected to hire a guide there,
but the rickety wooden building was empty. Vane decided that its Siwash
owners, who made long trips in search of fish and furs, had left it for a
time, and he pushed on again.

He had now to face an unforeseen difficulty; there were a number of
openings in that strip of coast, and Hartley's description was of no
great service in deciding which was the right one. During the next day or
two, they looked into several bights, and seeing no valleys opening out
of them, went on again. One evening, however, they ran into an inlet with
a forest-shrouded hollow at the head of it. Here they moored the sloop
close in with a sheltered beach and after a night's rest got ready their
packs for the march inland. Carroll regretted they had not hired the
Indians with whom his comrade had crossed the straits.

"We would have traveled a good deal more comfortably if you had brought
those Siwash along to pack for us," he observed.

"If you had been with them on the canoe trip, you might think
differently," Vane answered with a laugh. "Besides, they're in the
habit of going to Cornox and might put some enterprising lumber men on
our trail."

"There's one thing I'm going to insist on," Carroll declared. "We'll
leave enough provisions on board to last us until we get back to
civilization, even if we have a head wind. I've made one or two journeys
on short rations."

Vane agreed to this, and after rowing ashore and hiding the boat among
the undergrowth, they proceeded to strap their packs about them. There is
an art in this, for the weight must be carried where it will be felt and
retard one's movements least. They had a light tent without poles--which
could be cut when wanted--two blankets, an ax, and one or two cooking
utensils, besides their provisions. A new-comer from the cities would
probably not have carried his share for half a day, but in that rugged
land mineral prospector and survey packer are accustomed to travel
heavily burdened, and the men had followed both these vocations.

In front of them a deep trough opened up in the hills, but it was filled
with giant forest, through which no track led, and only those who have
traversed the dim recesses of the primeval bush can fully understand what
this implies. The west winds swept through that gateway, reaping as they
went, and here and there tremendous trees lay strewed athwart one another
with their branches spread abroad in impenetrable tangles. Some had
fallen amid the wreckage left by previous gales, which the forest had
partly made good, and there was scarcely a rod of the way that was not
obstructed by half-rotted trunks. Then there were thick bushes, and an
undergrowth of willows where the soil was damp, with thorny brakes and
matted fern in between. In places the growth was almost like a wall, and
the men, skirting the inlet, were glad to scramble forward among the
rough boulders and ragged driftwood at the water's edge for some minutes
at a time, until it was necessary to leave the beach behind.

After the first few minutes there was no sign of the gleaming water. They
had entered a region of dim green shade, where the moist air was heavy
with resinous smells. The trunks rose about them in tremendous columns,
thorns clutched their garments, and twigs and brittle branches snapped
beneath their feet. The day was cool, but the sweat of tense effort
dripped from them, and when they stopped for breath at the end of an
hour, Vane estimated that they had gone a mile.

"I'll be content if we can keep this up," he said.

"It isn't likely," Carroll replied with a trace of dryness, glancing down
at a big rent in his jacket.

A little farther on, they waded with difficulty through a large stream,
and Carroll stopped and glanced round at a deep rift in a crag on one
side of them.

"I don't know whether that could be considered a valley; but we may as
well look at it."

They scrambled forward, and reaching gravelly soil where the trees were
thinner, Vane surveyed the opening. It was very narrow and appeared to
lose itself among the rocks. The size of the creek which flowed out of it
was no guide, for those ranges are scored by running water.

"We won't waste time over that ravine," Vane concluded. "I noticed a
wider one farther on. We'll see what it's like; though Hartley led me to
understand that he came down a straight and gently sloping valley. The
one we're in answers the description."

It was two hours before they reached the second opening, and then Vane,
unstrapping his pack, clambered up the steep face of a crag. When he came
back, his face was thoughtful. He sat down and lighted his pipe.

"This search seems likely to take us longer than I expected," he said.
"To begin with, there are a number of inlets, all of them pretty much
alike, along this part of the coast, but I needn't go into the reasons
for supposing that this is the one Hartley visited. Taking it for granted
that we're right, we're up against another difficulty. So far as I could
make out from the top of that rock, there's a regular series of ravines
running back into the hills."

"Hartley told you he came straight down to tidewater, didn't he?"

"That's not much of a guide. The slope of every fissure seems to run
naturally from the inland watershed to this basin. Hartley was sick and
it was raining all the time, and coming out of any of these ravines he'd
only have to make a slight turn to reach the water. What's more, he
could only tell me that he was heading roughly west. Allowing that there
was no sun visible, that might have meant either northwest or southwest,
which gives us the choice of searching the hollows on either side of the
main valley. Now, it strikes me as most probable that he came right down
the main valley itself; but we have to face the question as to whether
we should push straight on, or search every opening that might be called
a valley?"

"What's your idea?" Carroll rejoined.

"That we ought to go into the thing systematically, and look at every
ravine we come to."

Carroll nodded agreement.

"I guess you're right."

They strapped their packs about them and struggled on again. Stopping
half an hour for dinner, they plodded all the afternoon up a long hollow,
which rose steadily in front of them. It was narrow, and in places the
bottom of it was so choked with fallen trunks that they were forced for
the sake of a clearer passage to take to the creek, where they
alternately stumbled among big boulders and splashed through shallow
pools. The water, which was mostly melted snow, was very cold.

The light was fading down in the deep rift when, winding round a spur
through a tangle of clinging underbrush, they saw the timber thin off
ahead. In a few minutes Vane stopped with an exclamation, and Carroll,
overtaking him, loosened his pack. They stood upon the edge of the
timber, but in front of them a mass of soil and stones ran up almost
vertically to a great outcrop of rock high above.

"If Hartley had come down that, he'd have remembered it," Vane
remarked grimly.

"It's obvious," Carroll agreed, sitting down with a sigh of weariness.
"We'll try the next one to-morrow; I don't move another step to-night."

Vane laughed.

"I've no wish to urge you. There's hardly a joint in my body that doesn't
ache." He flung down his pack and stretched himself with an air of
relief. "That's what comes of civilization and soft living. It would be
nice to sit still now while somebody brought me my supper."

As there was nobody to do so, he took up the ax and set about hewing
chips off a fallen trunk while Carroll made a fire. Then he cut the tent
poles and a few armfuls of twigs for a bed, and in half an hour the camp
was pitched and a meal prepared. Darkness closed down on them while they
ate, and they afterward lay a while, smoking and saying little, beside
the sinking fire, while the red light flickered upon the massy trunks and
fell away again. Then they crawled into the tent and wrapped their
blankets round them.



When Vane rose early the next morning, there was frost in the air. The
firs glistened with delicate silver filigree, and thin spears of ice
stretched out from behind the boulders in the stream. The smoke of the
fire thickened the light haze that filled the hollow, and when breakfast
was ready the men ate hastily, eager for the exertion that would put a
little warmth into them.

"We've had it a good deal colder on other trips. I suppose I've been
getting luxurious, for I seem to resent it now," observed Vane. "There's
no doubt that winter's beginning earlier that I expected up here. As soon
as you can strike the tent, we'll get a move on."

Carroll made no comment He had a vivid recollection of one or two of
those other journeys, during which they had spent arduous days
floundering through slushy snow and had slept in saturated blankets, and
sometimes shelterless in bitter frost. Carroll had endured these things
without complaint, though he had never attained to the cheerfulness his
comrade usually displayed. He was willing to face hardship, when it
promised to lead to a tangible result, but he failed to understand the
curious satisfaction Vane assumed to feel in ascertaining exactly how
much weariness and discomfort he could force his flesh to bear.

Vane, however, was not singular in this respect; there are men in the
newer lands who, if they do not actually seek it, will seldom make an
effort to avoid the strain of overtaxed muscles and exposure to wild and
bitter weather. They have imbibed the pristine vigor of the wilderness,
and conflict with the natural forces braces instead of daunting them. One
recognizes them by their fixed and steady gaze, their direct and
deliberate speech, and the proficiency that most display with ax and saw
and rifle. But the effect of this Spartan training is not merely
physical; the men who leave the bush and the ranges, as a rule, come to
the forefront in commerce and industry. Endurance, swiftness of action
and stubborn tenacity are apt to carry their possessor far anywhere.

Vane and his comrade needed these qualities during the following week.
The valley grew more wild and rugged as they proceeded. In places, its
bottom was filled with muskegs, cumbered with half-submerged, decaying
trunks of fallen trees; and when they could not spring from one crumbling
log to another they sank in slime and water to the knee. Then there were
effluents of the main river to be waded through, and every now and then
they were forced back by impenetrable thickets to the hillside, where
they scrambled along a talus of frost-shattered rock. They entered
transverse valleys, and after hours of exhausting labor abandoned the
search of each in turn and plodded back to the one they had been
following. Their boots and clothing suffered; their packs were rent upon
their backs; and their provisions diminished rapidly.

At length, one lowering afternoon, they were brought to a standstill by
the river which forked into two branches, one of which came foaming out
of a cleft in the rocks. This would have mattered less, had it flowed
across the level; but just there it had scored itself out a deep hollow,
from which the roar of its turmoil rose in long reverberations. Carroll,
aching all over, stood upon the brink and gazed ahead. He surmised from
the steady ascent and the contours of the hills that the valley was dying
out and that they should reach the head of it in another day's journey.
The higher summits, however, were veiled in leaden mist, and there was a
sting in the cold breeze that blew down the hollow and set the ragged
firs to wailing. Then Carroll glanced dubiously at the dim, green water
which swirled in deep eddies and boiled in white confusion among the
fangs of rock sixty or seventy feet below. Not far away, the stream was
wider and, he supposed, in consequence, shallower, though it ran

"It doesn't look encouraging, and we have no more food left than will
take us back to the sloop if we're economical. Do you think it's worth
while going on?"

"I haven't a doubt about it," Vane declared. "We ought to reach the head
of the valley and get back here in two or three days."

Carroll fancied they could have walked the distance in a few hours on a
graded road; but the roughness of the ground was not the chief

"Three days will make a big hole in the provisions," he pointed out.

"Then we'll have to put up with short rations."

Carroll nodded in rueful acquiescence.

"If you're determined, we may as well get on."

He stepped cautiously over the edge of the descent, and went down a few
yards with a run, while loosened soil and stones slipped away under him.
Then he clutched a slender tree, and proceeded as far as the next on his
hands and knees. After that it was necessary to swing himself over a
ledge, and he alighted safely on one below, from which he could scramble
down to the narrow strip of gravel between rock and water. He was
standing, breathless, looking at the latter, when Vane joined him. The
stones dipped sharply, and two or three large boulders, ringed about with
froth, rose near the middle of the stream, which seemed to be running
slacker on the other side of them.

There was nothing to show how deep it was, and Carroll did not relish the
idea of being compelled to swim burdened with his pack. No trees grew
immediately upon the brink of the chasm, and to chop a good-sized log and
get it down to the water, in order to ferry themselves across on it,
would cost more time than Vane was likely to spare for the purpose.
Seeing no other way out of it, Carroll braced himself for an effort and
sturdily plunged in.

Two steps took him up to the waist, and he had trouble in finding solid
bottom at the next, for the gravel rolled and slipped away beneath his
feet in the strong stream. The current dragged hard at his limbs, and he
set his lips tight when it crept up to his ribs. Then he lost his
footing, and was washed away, plunging and floundering, with now and then
one toe resting momentarily upon the bottom. Sweeping rapidly down the
stream he was hurled against the first of the boulders with a crash that
almost drove the little remaining breath out of his body. He clung to it
desperately, gasping hard; then, with a determined struggle, he contrived
to reach the second stone, but the stream pressed him violently against
this and he was unable to find any support for his feet. A moment later
Vane was washed down toward him and, grabbing at the boulder, held on by
it. They said nothing to each other, but they looked at the sliding water
between them and the opposite bank. Carroll was getting dangerously cold,
and he felt the power ebbing out of him. He realized that if he must swim
across he would better do it at once.

Launching himself forward, he felt the flood lap his breast, but as his
arms went in he struck something with his knee and found that he could
stand on a submerged ledge. This carried him a yard or two, but the next
moment he had stepped suddenly over the end of the ledge into deeper
water. Floundering forward, he staggered up a strip of shelving shingle
and lay there, breathless, waiting for Vane; then together they
scrambled up the slope ahead. The work warmed them slightly, and they
needed it; but as they strode on again, keeping to the foot of the
hillside, where the timber was less dense, a cold rain drove into their
faces. It grew steadily thicker; the straps began to gall their wet
shoulders, and their saturated clothing clung heavily about their limbs.
In spite of this, they struggled on until nightfall, when with
difficulty they made a fire and, after a reduced supper, found a little
humid warmth in their wet blankets.

The next day's work was much the same, only that they crossed no rivers.
It rained harder, however, and when evening came Carroll, who had burst
one boot, was limping badly. They made camp among the dripping firs which
partly sheltered them from the bitter wind, and shortly after their
meager supper Carroll fell asleep. Vane, to his annoyance, found that he
could not follow his friend's example. He was overstrung, and the
knowledge that the morrow would show whether the spruce he sought grew in
that valley made him restless. The flap of the tent was flung back and
resting on one elbow he looked out upon shadowy ranks of trunks, which
rose out of the gloom and vanished again as the firelight grew and sank.
He could smell the acrid smoke and could hear the splash of heavy drops
upon the saturated soil, while the hoarse roar of the river came up in
fitful cadence from the depths of the valley.

In place of being deadened by fatigue, his imagination seemed quickened
and set free. It carried him back to the lonely heights and the rugged
dales of his own land, and once more in vivid memory he roamed the upland
heath with Evelyn. She had attracted him strongly when he was in her
visible presence; but now he thought he understood her better than he had
ever done then. He had, he felt, not grasped the inner meaning of much
that she said. Words might convey but little in their literal sense and
yet give to a sympathetic listener an insight into the depths of the
speaker's nature, or hint at a thought too finely spun and delicate for
formal expression.

The same thing applied to her physical personality. Contours, coloring,
features, were things that could be defined and appraised; but there was
besides, in Evelyn's case, an aura that only now and then could dimly be
perceived by senses attuned to it. It enveloped her in a mystic light.
Again he remembered how he had sought her with crude longing and cold
appreciation. He had failed to comprehend her; the one creditable thing
he had done was the renouncing of his claim. Then the half-formed idea
grew plainer that she would understand and sympathize with what he was
doing now. It was to keep faith with those who trusted him that he meant
stubbornly to prosecute his search and, if the present journey failed, to
come back again. That Evelyn would ever hear of his undertaking, appeared
most improbable; but this did not matter. He knew now that it was the
remembrance of her that had largely animated him to make the venture; and
to go on in the face of all opposing difficulties was something he could
do in her honor. Then by degrees his eyes grew heavy, and when he sank
down in his wet blankets sleep came to him. Perhaps he had been
fanciful--he was undoubtedly overstrung--but, through such dreams as he
indulged in, passing glimpses of strange and splendid visions that
transfigure the toil and clamor of a material world are now and then
granted to wayfaring men.

At noon the next day they reached the head of the valley. It was still
raining, and heavy mists obscured the summits of the hills, but above the
lower slopes of rock glimmering snow ran up into the woolly vapor. There
were firs, a few balsams and hemlocks, but no sign of a spruce.

"Now," Carroll commented dryly, "perhaps you'll be satisfied."

Vane smiled. He was no nearer to owning himself defeated than he had been
when they first set out.

"We know there's no spruce in this valley--and that's something," he
replied. "When we come back again we'll try the next one."

"It has cost us a good deal to make sure of the fact"

Vane's expression changed.

"We haven't ascertained the cost just yet. As a rule, you don't make up
the bill until you're through with the undertaking; and it may be a
longer one than either of us think. Well, we might as well turn upon
our tracks."

Carroll recalled this speech afterward. Just then, however, he hitched
his burden a little higher on his aching shoulders as he plodded after
his comrade down the rain-swept hollow. They had good cause to remember
the march to the inlet. It rained most of the while and their clothes
were never dry; parts of them, indeed, flowed in tatters about their
aching limbs, and before they had covered half the distance, their boots
were dropping to pieces. What was more important, their provisions were
rapidly running out, and they marched on a few handfuls of food,
carefully apportioned, twice daily. At last they lay down hungry, with
empty bags, one night, to sleep shelterless in the rain, for they had
thrown their tent away. Carroll had some difficulty in getting on his
feet the next morning.

"I believe I can hold out until sundown, though I'm far from sure of
it," he said. "You'll have to leave me behind if we don't strike the
inlet then."

"We'll strike it in the afternoon," Vane assured him.

They reslung their packs and set out wearily. Carroll, limping and
stumbling along, was soon troubled by a distressful stitch in his side.
He managed to keep pace with Vane, however, and some time after noon a
twinkling gleam among the trees caught their eye. Then the shuffling
pace grew faster, and they were breathless when at last they stopped and
dropped their burdens beside the boat. It was only at the third or
fourth attempt that they got her down to the water, and the veins were
swollen high on Vane's flushed forehead when he sat down, panting
heavily, on her gunwale.

"We ran her up quite easily, though we had the slope to face then,"
he remarked.

"You could scarcely expect to carry boats about without trouble after a
march like the one we've made!"

They ran her in and pulled off to the sloop. When at last they sat down
in the little saloon, Vane got a glimpse of himself in the mirror.

"I knew you looked a deadbeat," he laughed, "but I'd no idea I was quite
so bad. Anyhow, we'll get the stove lighted and some dry things on. The
next question is--what shall we have for supper?"

"That's easy. Everything that's most tempting, and the whole of it."

Shortly afterward they flung their boots and rent garments overboard and
sat down to a feast. The plates were empty when they rose, and in another
hour both of them were wrapped in heavy slumber.



The next morning it was blowing fresh from the southeast, which was right
ahead, and Vane's face was hard when he and Carroll got the boat on deck
and set about tying down two reefs in the mainsail.

"Bad luck seems to follow us," he grumbled.

Carroll smiled.

"There's no doubt of that; but I suppose the fact won't have much
effect on you."

"No," returned Vane decidedly, "We had our troubles in other ventures,
and somehow we got over them--I don't see why we shouldn't do the same
again. Now that we've seen the country, we ought to get some useful
information out of Hartley--we'll know what to ask him."

"I shouldn't count too much on his help," Carroll answered with a
thoughtful air.

They got sail upon the sloop and drove her out into a confused head sea,
through which she labored with flooded decks, making very little to
windward. When night came, a deluge killed the breeze, and the next day
she lay rolling wildly in a heavy calm while light mist narrowed in the
horizon and a persistent drizzle poured down upon the smoothly heaving
sea. Then they had light variable winds, and their provisions were once
more running out when they drew abreast of a little coaling port. Carroll
suggested running in and going on to Victoria by train, but they had
hardly decided to do so when the fickle breeze died away and the
tide-stream bore them past to the south. They had no longer a stitch of
dry clothing and they were again upon reduced rations.

Still bad fortune dogged them, for that night a fresh head wind sprang up
and held steadily while they thrashed her south, swept by stinging spray.
Their tempers grew shorter under the strain, and their bodies ached from
the chill of their sodden garments and from sitting hour by hour at the
helm. At last the breeze fell, and shortly afterward a trail of smoke and
a half-seen strip of hull emerged from the creeping haze astern of them.

"A lumber tug," observed Vane. "She seems to have a raft in tow, and it
will probably be for Drayton's people. If you'll edge in toward her I'll
send him word that we're on the way."

There was very little wind just then and presently the tug was close
alongside, pitching her bows out of the slow swell, while a great mass of
timber wonderfully chained together surged along astern, the dim,
slate-green sea washing over it. A shapeless oil-skinned figure stood
outside her pilot-house, balancing itself against the heave of the
bridge, which slanted and straightened.

"Winstanley?" Vane shouted.

The figure waved an arm, as if in assent, and Vane raised his
voice again.

"Report us to Mr. Drayton. We'll come along as fast as we can."

The man turned and pointed to the misty horizon astern.

"You'll get it from the north before to-morrow!"' he called.

Then the straining tug and the long wet line of working raft drew ahead
while the sloop crawled on, close-hauled toward the south. Late that
night, however, the mist melted away, and a keen rushing breeze that came
out of the north crisped the water. The vessel sprang forward when the
ripples reached her; the flapping canvas went to sleep; and while each
slack rope tightened a musical tinkle broke out at the bows. It grew
steadily louder, and when the sun swung up red above the eastern hills,
she had piled the white froth to her channels and was driving forward
merrily with little sparkling seas tumbling, foam-tipped, after her. The
wind fell light as the sun rose higher, but the swinging sloop ran on all
day, with blurred hills and forests sliding past; and the western sky was
still blazing with a wondrous green when she stole into Vancouver harbor.

Carroll gazed at the city with open appreciation. It rose, girded with
many wires and giant telegraph poles, roof above roof, up a low rise, on
the crest of which towering pines still lifted their ragged spires
against the evening sky. Lower down, big white lights were beginning to
blink, and the forests up the inlet beyond the smoke of the mills had
already faded to a belt of shadow.

"Quebec," he remarked, "looks fine from the river, clustering round
and perched upon its heights; and Montreal at the foot of its
mountain strikes your eye from most points of view; but I can't
remember ever entering either with the pleasure I've experienced in
reaching this city."

"You probably arrived at the others traveling in a Pullman or in a
luxurious side-wheel steamboat. It wouldn't be any great change from them
to a smart hotel."

"That may explain the thing," Carroll agreed with an air of humorous
reflection. "I guess the way you regard a city depends largely on the
condition you're in when you reach it and on what you expect to get out
of it. In the present case, Vancouver stands for rest and comfort and
enough to eat."

Vane laughed.

"I'm as glad to be back as you are; but you'd better make the most of any
leisure that you can get. As soon as I've arranged things here we'll go
north again."

The light faded as they crept across the inlet before a faint breeze, but
when they got the anchor over and the boat into the water, Carroll made
out two dim figures standing on the wharf.

"It's Drayton, I think," he said, waving a hand to them. "Kitty's
with him."

They pulled ashore, and Drayton and Kitty greeted them.

"I've been looking out for you since noon," Drayton told them. "What
about the spruce?"

There was eagerness in his voice, and Vane's face clouded.

"We couldn't find a trace of it."

Drayton's disappointment was obvious, though he tried to hide it.

"Well," he said resignedly, "I've no doubt you did all you could."

"Of course!" Kitty broke in. "We're quite sure of that!"

Vane thanked her with a glance. He felt sorry for her and Drayton.
They were strongly attached to each other, and he had reasons for
believing that even with the advanced salary the man expected to get
they would find it needful to study strict economy. It was easy to
understand that a small share in a prosperous enterprise would have
made things easier for them.

"I'm going to make another attempt. I expect some of our difficulties
will vanish after I've had a talk with Hartley."

"That's impossible," Kitty explained softly. "Hartley died a week ago."

Vane started. The prospector had given him very little definite
information, and it was disconcerting to recognize that he must now rely
entirely upon his own devices.

"I'm sorry", he said "How's Celia?"

"She's very ill." There was concern in Kitty's voice. "Hartley got worse
soon after you left, and she sat up all night with him, after her work
for the last few weeks. Now she's broken down, and she seems to worry for
fear they will not take her back again at the hotel."

"I must go to see her," declared Vane. "But won't you and Drayton come
with us and have dinner?"

Drayton explained that this was out of the question; Kitty's employer,
who had driven in that afternoon, was waiting with his team. They left
the wharf together, and a few minutes later Vane shook hands with the
girl and her companion.

"Don't lose heart," he said encouragingly. "We're far from beaten yet."

Some time afterward Vane, rejoicing in the unusual luxury of clean, dry
clothes, walked across to call on Nairn. The house struck him as
larger, more commodious and better lighted than it had been when he
left it, although he supposed that was only the result of his having
lived on board the sloop and in the bush. He was shown into a room
where Jessy Horsfield was sitting, and she rose with a slight start
when he came in; but her manner was reposeful and quietly friendly when
she held out her hand.

"So you have come back! Have you succeeded in your search?"

Vane was gratified. It was pleasant to feel that she was interested in
his undertaking.

"No," he confessed. "For the time being, I'm afraid I have failed."

There was reproach in Jessy's voice when she answered.

"Then you have disappointed me!"

It was delicate flattery, as she had conveyed the impression that she had
expected him to succeed, which implied that she held a high opinion of
his abilities. Still, she did not mean him to think that he had forfeited
the latter.

"After all, you must have had a good deal against you," she added
consolingly. "Won't you sit down and tell me about it? Mr. Nairn, I
understand, is writing some letters, and he sent for Mrs. Nairn just
before you came in. I don't suppose she will be back for a few minutes."

She indicated a chair beside the open hearth and Vane sat down opposite
her, where a low screen cut them off from the rest of the room. A shaded
lamp above their heads cast down a soft radiance which lighted a sparkle
in the girl's hair, and a red, wood fire glowed cheerfully in front of
them. Vane, still stiff and aching from exposure to the cold and rain,
reveled in the unusual sense of comfort. In addition to this, his
companion's pose was singularly graceful, and the ease of it and the
friendly smile with which she regarded him somehow implied that they were
on excellent terms.

"It's very nice to be here again," he said languidly.

Jessy looked up at him. He had, as she recognized, spoken as he felt, on
impulse, and this was more gratifying than an obvious desire to pay her a
compliment would have been.

"I suppose you didn't get many comforts in the bush," she suggested.

"No. Comforts of any kind are remarkably scarce up yonder. As a matter
of fact, I can't imagine a country where the contrasts between the
luxuries of civilization and--the other thing--are sharper. You can step
off a first-class car into the wilderness, where no amount of money can
buy you better fare than pork, potatoes and dried apples; and if you
want to travel you must shoulder your pack and walk. But that wasn't
exactly what I meant."

"Then what did you mean?"

"I don't know that it's worth explaining. We have rather luxurious
quarters at the hotel, but this room is somehow different. It's
restful--I think it's homely--in fact, as I said, it's nice to be here."

Jessy made no comment. She understood that he had been attempting to
analyze his feelings, and had failed clearly to recognize that her
presence contributed to the satisfaction of which he was conscious. She
had no doubt that if he were a man of average susceptibility, which
seemed to be the case, the company of a well-dressed and attractive woman
would have some effect on him after his sojourn in the wilds; but whether
she had produced any deeper effect than that or not she could not
determine. Though she was curious upon the point, it did not appear
judicious to prompt him unduly.

"But won't you tell me your adventures?" she begged.

It required a few leading questions to start him but at length he told
the story in a manner that compelled her interest.

"You see," he concluded, "it was the lack of definite knowledge as much
as the natural obstacles that brought us back--and I've been troubled
about the thing since we landed."

Jessy's manner invited his confidence.

"I wonder," she said softly, "if you would care to tell me why?"

Vane knit his brows.

"Hartley's dead, and I understand that his daughter has broken down after
nursing him. It's doubtful whether her situation can be kept open, and it
may be some time before she's strong enough to look for another." He
hesitated. "In a way, I feel responsible for her."

"You really aren't responsible in the least," Jessy declared. "Still, I
can understand the idea's troubling you."

"She's left without a cent and unable to work--and I don't know what to
do. In an affair of this kind I'm handicapped by being a man."

"Would you like me to help you?"

"I can hardly ask it, but it would be a relief to me," Vane answered with
obvious eagerness.

"Then if you'll tell me her address, I'll go to see her, and we'll
consider what can be done."

Vane leaned forward impulsively.

"You have taken a weight off my mind. It's difficult to thank you

"Oh, I don't suppose it will give me any trouble. Of course, it must be
embarrassing to you to feel that you have a helpless young woman on
your hands."

Then a thought flashed into her mind, as she remembered what she had seen
at the station some months ago.

"I wonder whether the situation is an altogether unusual one to you?"
she queried. "Have you never let your pity run away with your
judgment before?"

"You wouldn't expect me to proclaim my charities," Vane parried
with a laugh.

"I think you are trying to put me off. You haven't given me an answer."

"Well, perhaps I was able to make things easier for somebody else not
very long ago," Vane confessed reluctantly but without embarrassment. "I
now see that I might have done harm without meaning to do so. It's
sometimes extraordinarily difficult to help people--and that makes me
especially grateful for your offer."

For the next few moments Jessy sat silent. It was clear that she had
misjudged him, for although she was not one who demanded too much from
human nature, the fact that Kitty Blake had arrived in Vancouver in his
company had undoubtedly rankled in her mind. Now she acquitted him of any
blame, and it was a relief to do so. She changed the subject abruptly.

"I suppose you will make another attempt to find the timber?"

"Yes. In a week or two."

He had hardly spoken when Mrs. Nairn came in and welcomed him with her
usual friendliness.

"I'm glad to see ye, though ye're looking thin," she said. "What's the
way ye did not come straight to us, instead of going to the hotel. Ye
would have got as good a supper as they would give ye there."

"I haven't a doubt of it," Vane declared. "On the other hand, I hardly
think that even one of your suppers would quite have put right the defect
in my appearance you mentioned. You see, the cause of it has been at work
for some time."

Mrs. Nairn regarded him with half-amused compassion.

"If ye'll come over every evening, we'll soon cure that. I would have
been down sooner if Alic had not kept me. He's writing letters, and there
was a matter or two he wanted to ask my opinion on."

"I think that was very wise of him," Vane commented.

His hostess smiled.

"For one thing, we had a letter from Evelyn Chisholm this afternoon.
She'll be out to spend some time with us in about a month."

"Evelyn's coming here?" Vane exclaimed, with a sudden stirring of
his heart.

"Why should she no? I told ye some time ago that we partly expected her.
Ye were no astonished then."

She appeared to expect an explanation of the change in his attitude, and
as he volunteered none she drew him a few paces aside.

"If I'm no betraying a confidence, Evelyn writes--I'm no sure of the
exact words--that she'll be glad to get away a while. Now, I've been
wondering why she should be anxious to leave home?"

She looked at him fixedly, and, to his annoyance, he felt his face grow
hot. Mrs. Nairn had quick perceptions, and now and then she was
painfully direct.

"It struck me that Evelyn was not very comfortable there," he replied.
"She seemed out of harmony with her people--she didn't belong. The same
thing," he went on lamely, "applies to Mopsy."

Mrs. Nairn glanced at him with a twinkle in her eyes.

"It's no unlikely. The reason may serve--for the want of a better." Then
she changed her tone. "Ye'll away up to Alic; he told me to send ye."

Vane went out of the room, but he left Jessy in a thoughtful mood. She
had seen his start at the mention of Evelyn, and it struck her as
significant, for she had heard that he had spent some time with the
Chisholms. On the other hand, there was the obvious fact that he had been
astonished to hear that Evelyn was coming out, which implied that their
acquaintance had not progressed far enough to warrant the girl's
informing him. Besides, Evelyn would not arrive for a month; and Jessy
reflected that she would probably see a good deal of Vane in the
meanwhile. She now felt glad that she had promised to look after Celia
Hartley, for that, no doubt, would necessitate her consulting with him
every now and then. She endeavored to dismiss the matter from her mind,
however, and exerted herself to interest Mrs. Nairn in a description of a
function she had lately attended.



Nairn was sitting at a writing-table when Vane entered his room, and
after a few questions about his journey he handed the younger man one of
the papers that lay in front of him.

"It's a report from the mine. Ye can read and think it over while I
finish this letter."

Vane carefully studied the document, and then waited until Nairn laid
down his pen.

"It only brings us back to our last conversation on the subject," he said
when his host glanced at him inquiringly. "We have the choice of going on
as we are doing, or extending our operations by an increase of capital.
In the latter case, our total earnings might be larger, but I hardly
believe there would be as good a return on the money actually sunk.
Taking it all round, I don't know what to think. Of course, if it
appeared that there was a moral certainty of making a satisfactory profit
on the new stock, I should consent."

Nairn chuckled.

"A moral certainty is no a very common thing in mining."

"Horsfield's in favor of the scheme. How far would you trust that man?"

"About as far as I could fling a bull by the tail. The same thing applies
to both of them."

"He has some influence. No doubt he'd find supporters."

Nairn saw that the meaning of his last remark, which implied that he had
no more confidence in Jessy than he had in her brother, had not been
grasped by his companion, but he did not consider it judicious to make it
plainer. Instead, he gave Vane another piece of information.

"He and Winter work into each other's hands."

"But Winter has no interest in the Clermont!"

Nairn smiled sourly.

"He holds no shares in the mine; but there's no much in the shape of
mineral developments yon man has no an interest in. Since ye do no seem
inclined to yield Horsfield a point or two, it might pay ye to watch the
pair of them."

Vane was aware that Winter was a person of some importance in financial
circles, and he sat thoughtfully silent for a couple of minutes.

"Now," he explained at length, "every dollar we have in the Clermont is
usefully employed and earning a satisfactory profit. Of course, if we put
the concern on the market, we might get more than it is worth from
investors; but that doesn't greatly appeal to me."

"It's unnecessary to point out that a director's interest is no
invariably the same as that of his shareholders," Nairn rejoined.

"It's an unfortunate fact. Yet I'd be no better off if I got only the
same actual return on a larger amount of what would be watered stock."

"There's sense in that. I'm no urging the scheme--there are other points
against it."

"Well, I'll go up and look round the mine, and then we'll have another
talk about the matter."

Vane walked back to his hotel in a thoughtful frame of mind. Finding
Carroll in the smoking-room, he related his conversation with Nairn.

"I'm a little troubled about the situation," he confessed. "The Clermont
finances are now on a sound basis, but it might after all prove
advantageous to raise further capital; although in such a case we would,
perhaps, lie open to attack. Nairn's inclined to be cryptic in his
remarks; but he seems to hint that it would be advisable to make
Horsfield some concession--in other words, to buy him off."

"Which is a course you have objections to?"

"Very decided ones."

"In a general way, Nairn's advice strikes me as quite sensible. Wherever
mining and other schemes are floated, there are men who make a good
living out of the operations. They're trained to the business; they've
control of the money; and when a new thing's put on the market, they
consider they've the first claim on the pickings. As a rule, that notion
seems to be justified."

"You needn't elaborate the point," Vane broke in impatiently.

"You made your appearance in this city as a poor and unknown man with a
mine to sell," Carroll went on. "Disregarding tactful hints, you laid
down your terms and stuck to them. Launching your venture without
considering their views, you did the gentlemen I've mentioned out of
their accustomed toll, and I've no doubt that some of them were
indignant. It's a thing you couldn't expect them to sanction. Now,
however, one who probably has others behind him is making overtures to
you. You ought to consider it a compliment; a recognition of ability.
The question is--do you mean to slight these advances and go on as you
have begun?"

"That's my present intention," Vane answered.

"Then you needn't be astonished if you find yourself up against a
determined opposition."

"I think my friends will stand by me."

Vane looked at him steadily, and Carroll laughed.

"Thanks. I've merely been pointing out what you may expect, and hinting
at the most judicious course--though the latter's rather against my
natural inclinations. I'd better add that I've never been particularly
prudent, and the opposite policy appeals to me. If we're forced to clear
for action, we'll nail the flag to the mast."

It was spoken lightly, because the man was serious, but Vane knew that he
had an ally who would support him with unflinching staunchness.

"I'm far from sure that it will be needful," he replied.

They talked about other matters until they strolled off to their rooms.
The next week Vane was kept occupied in the city; and then once more they
sailed for the North. They pushed inland until they were stopped by snow
among the ranges, without finding the spruce. The journey proved as
toilsome as the previous one, and both men were worn out when they
reached the coast. Vane was determined on making a third attempt, but he
decided to visit the mine before proceeding to Vancouver. They had heavy
rain during the voyage down the straits, and when, on the day after
reaching port, the jaded horses they had hired plodded up the sloppy
trail to the mine a pitiless deluge poured down on them. The light was
growing dim among the dripping firs, and a deep-toned roar came throbbing
across their shadowy ranks. Vane turned and glanced back at Carroll.

"I've never heard the river so plainly before," he said. "It must be
unusually swollen."

The mine was situated on a narrow level flat between the hillside and the
river, and Carroll understood the anxiety in his comrade's voice. Urging
the wearied horses they pressed on a little faster. It was almost dark,
however, when they reached the edge of an opening in the firs and saw a
cluster of iron-roofed, wooden buildings and a tall chimney-stack, in
front of which the unsightly ore-dump extended. Wet, chilled and worn out
as the men were, there was comfort in the sight; but Vane frowned as he
noticed that a shallow lake stretched between him and the buildings. On
one side of it there was a broad strip of tumbling foam, which rose and
fell in confused upheavals and filled the forest with the roar it made.
Vane drove his horse into the water; and dismounting among the stumps
before the ore-dump, he found a wet and soil-stained man awaiting him. A
long trail of smoke floated away from the iron stack behind him, and
through the sound of the river there broke the clank and thud of
hard-driven pumps.

"You have got a big head of steam up, Salter," he remarked.

The man nodded.

"We want it. It's a taking me all my time to keep the water out of the
workings; and the boys are over their ankles in the new drift. Leave
your horses--I'll send along for them--and I'll show you what we've been
doing, after supper."

"I'd rather go now, while I'm wet," Vane answered. "We came straight on
as soon as we landed, and I probably shouldn't feel like turning out
again when I'd had a meal."

Salter made a sign of assent, and a few minutes later they went down into
the mine. The approach to it looked like a canal, and they descended the
shallow shaft amid a thin cascade. The tunnel slanted, for the lode
dipped, and the pale lights that twinkled here and there among the
timbering showed shadowy, half-naked figures toiling in water which rose
well up their boots. Further streams of it ran in from fissures; and
Vane's face grew grave as he plodded through the flood with a lamp in his
hand. He spent an hour in the workings, asking Salter a question now and
then, and afterward went back with him to one of the iron-roofed sheds,
where he put on dry clothes and sat down to a meal.

When it was over and the table had been cleared, he lay in a canvas chair
beside the stove, listening to the resinous billets snapping and
crackling cheerfully. The little, brightly lighted room was pleasantly
warm, and Vane was filled with a languid sense of physical comfort after
long exposure to rain and bitter wind. The deluge roared upon the iron
roof; the song of the river rose and fell, filling the place with sound;
and now and then the pounding and clanking of the pumps broke in.

Vane examined the sheet of figures Salter handed him, and lighted a fresh
cigar when he had laid it down. Then he carefully turned over some of
the pieces of stone which partly covered the table.

"There's no doubt that those specimens aren't quite so promising," he
said at length; "and the cost of extraction is going up. I'll have a talk
with Nairn when I get back; but in the meanwhile it looks as if we were
going to have trouble with the water."

"It's a thing I've been afraid of for some time," Salter answered. "We
can keep down any leakage that comes in through the rock, though it
means driving the pumps hard, but an inrush from the river would beat
us. A rise of a foot or so would turn the flood into the workings." He
paused and added significantly: "Drowning out a mine's a costly matter.
My idea is that you ought to double our pumping power and cut down the
rock in the river-bed near the rapid. That would take off three or four
feet of water."

"It would mean a mighty big wages bill."

Salter nodded gravely.

"To do the thing properly would cost a pile of money; but it's an outlay
that you'll surely have to face."

Vane let the matter drop, and an hour later retired to his wooden berth.
The roar of the rain upon the vibrating roof was like the roll of a great
drum, and the sound of the river's turmoil throbbed through the frail
wooden shack; but the man had lain down at night near many a rapid and
thundering fall, and in a few minutes he was fast asleep. He was awakened
by a new shrill note, which he recognized as the whistle of the pumping
engine. It was sounding the alarm. The next moment Vane was struggling
into his clothing; then the door swung open and Salter stood in the
entrance, lantern in hand, with water trickling from him. There was keen
anxiety in his expression.

"Flood's lapping the bank top now!" he gasped. "There's a jam in the
narrow place at the head of the rapid and the water's backing up! I'm
going along with the boys."

He vanished as suddenly as he had appeared and Vane savagely jerked on
his jacket. If the mine were drowned, it would entail a heavy
expenditure in pumping plant to clear out the water, and even then
operations might be stopped for a considerable time. What was more, it
would precipitate a crisis in the affairs of the company and necessitate
an increase of its capital.

Vane was outside in less than a minute and stood still, looking about
him, while the deluge lashed his face and beat his clothing against his
limbs. He could make out only a blurred mass of climbing trees on one
side and a strip of foam cutting through the black level, which he
supposed was water, in front of him. His trained ears, however, gave him
a little information, for the clamor of the flood was broken by a sharp
snapping and crashing which he knew was made by a mass of driftwood
driving furiously against the boulders. In that region, the river banks
are encumbered here and there with great logs, partly burned by forest
fires, reaped by gales or brought down from the hillsides by falls of
frost-loosened soil. A flood higher than usual sets them floating, and on
subsiding sometimes leaves them packed in a gorge or stranded in a
shallow to wait for the next big rise. Now they were driving down and,
as Salter had said, jamming at the head of the rapid.

Suddenly a column of fierce white radiance leaped up, lower down-stream,
and Vane knew that a big compressed air-lamp had been carried to the spot
where the driftwood was gathering. Even at a distance, the brightness of
the blaze dazzled him, and he could see nothing else when he headed
toward it. He stumbled against a fir stump, and the next minute the
splashing about his feet warned him that he was entering the water.
Having no wish to walk into the main stream, he floundered to one side.
Getting nearer to the blaze, he soon made out a swarm of shadowy figures
scurrying about beneath it. Some of them had saws or axes, for he caught
the gleam of steel. He broke into a splashing run; and presently Carroll,
whom he had forgotten, came up calling to him.



When he reached the blast-lamp, which was raised on a tall tripod, Vane
stood with his back to the pulsating gaze while he grasped the details of
a somewhat impressive scene. A little upstream of him, the river leaped
out of the darkness, breaking into foaming waves, and a wall of dripping
firs flung back the roar it made, the first rows of serried trunks
standing out hard and sharp in the fierce white light. Nearer the spot
where he stood, a projecting spur of rock narrowed in the river, which
boiled tumultuously against its foot, while about halfway across, the top
of a giant boulder rose above the flood.

Vane could just see it, because a mass of driftwood, which was
momentarily growing, stretched from bank to bank. A big log, drifting
down sidewise, had brought up against the boulder and once fixed had
seized and held fast each succeeding trunk. Some had been driven partly
out upon those that had preceded them; some had been drawn beneath and
catching the bottom had jammed; then the rest had been wedged by the
current into the gathering mass, trunks, branches and brushwood all
finding a place. When the stream is strong, a jam usually extends
downward, as well as rises, as the water it pens back increases in
depth, until it forms an almost solid barrier from surface to bed. If it
occurs during a log-drive the river is choked with valuable lumber.

Bent figures were at work with handspikes and axes at the shoreward end
of the mass; others had crawled out along the logs in search of another
point where they could advantageously be attacked; but Vane, watching
them with practised eye, decided that they were largely throwing their
toil away. Then he glanced down-stream; but, powerful as the light was,
it did not pierce far into the darkness and the rain, and the mad white
rush of the rapid vanished abruptly into the surrounding gloom. He caught
the clink of a hammer on a drill, and seeing Salter not far away, he
strode toward him.

"How are you getting to work?" he asked.

Salter pointed to the foot of the rock on which they stood.

"I reckoned that if we could put a shot in yonder we might cut out stone
enough to clear the butts of the larger logs that are keying up the jam."

"You're wasting time--starting at the wrong place."

"It's possible; but what am I to do? I'd rather split that boulder or
chop down to the king log there--but the boys can't get across."

"Have they tried?" Vane demanded. "I will, if it's necessary."

Salter expostulated.

"I want to point out that you're the boss director of this company. I
don't know what you're making out of it; but you can hire men to do that
kind of work for three dollars a day."

"We'll let the boys try it, if they're willing."

Vane raised his voice.

"Are any of you open to earn twenty dollars? I'll pay that to the man
who'll put a stick of giant-powder in yonder boulder, and another twenty
to any one who can find the king log and chop it through."

Three or four of them crept cautiously along the driftwood bridge. It
heaved and worked beneath them; the foam sluiced across it and the
stream forced the thinner tops of shattered trees above the barrier. It
was obvious that the men were risking life and limb, and there was a
cry from the others when one of them went down and momentarily
disappeared. He scrambled to his feet again, but those behind him
stopped, bracing themselves against the stream, nearly waist-deep in
rushing froth. Most of them had followed rough and dangerous
occupations in the bush; but they were not professional river-Jacks
trained to high proficiency in log-driving, and one of them, turning,
shouted to the watchers on the bank.

"This jam's not solid!" he explained above the roar of the water. "She's
working open and shutting; and you can't tell where the breaks are."

He stooped and rubbed his leg, and Vane understood him to add:

"Figured I had it smashed."

Vane swung round toward Carroll.

"We'll give them a lead!"

Salter ventured another expostulation:

"Stay where you are! How are you going to manage, if the boys can't
tackle the thing?"

"They haven't as much at stake as I have," was Vane's reply. "I'm a
director of the company, as you pointed out. Give me two sticks of
giant-powder, some fuse, and detonators!"

Salter yielded when he saw that Vane meant to be obeyed; and cramming the
blasting material into his pocket, Vane turned to Carroll.

"Are you coming with me?"

"Since I can't stop you, I suppose I'd better go."

As they sprang down the bank, Salter addressed one of the miners at
work near him.

"I've seen a few company bosses in my time, but this one's different from
the rest. I can't imagine any of the others wanting to cross that jam."

Vane crawled out on the groaning timber, with Carroll a few feet behind
him. The perilous bridge they traversed rolled beneath their feet; but
they had joined the other men before they came to any particularly
troublesome opening. Then the clustering wet figures were brought up by a
gap filled with leaping foam, in the midst of which brushwood swung to
and fro and projecting branches ground on one another. Whether there was
solid timber a foot or two beneath, or only the entrance to some cavity
by which the stream swept through the barrier, there was nothing to show;
but Vane set his lips and leaped. He alighted on something that bore him,
and when the others followed, floundering and splashing, the deliberation
which hitherto had characterized their movements suddenly deserted them.
They had reached the limit beyond which it was no longer needful.

There is courage which springs from knowledge, often painfully acquired,
of the threatened dangers and the best means of avoiding them; but it
carries its possessor only so far. Beyond that point he must face the
risk he cannot estimate and blindly trust to chance. At sea, when canvas
is still the propelling power, and in the wilderness, man at grips with
the elemental forces must now and then rise above bodily shrinking and
disregard the warnings of reason. There are tasks which cannot be
undertaken in cold blood; and when they had crossed the gap, Vane and
those behind him blundered on in hot Berserker fury. They had risen to
the demand on them, and the curious psychic change had come; now they
must achieve success or face annihilation. But in this there was nothing
unusual; it is the alternative offered many a log-driver, miner and

Neither Vane nor Carroll, nor any of those who assisted them, had a clear
recollection of what they did. Somehow they reached the boulder; somehow
they plied ax or iron-hooked peevy, while the unstable, foam-lapped
platform rocked beneath their feet. Every movement entailed a peril no
one could calculate; but they toiled savagely on. When Vane began to
swing a hammer above a drill, or from whom he got it, he did not know,
any more than he remembered when he had torn off and thrown away his
jacket although the sticks of giant-powder which had been in his pocket
lay near him upon the stone. Sparks leaped from the drill which Carroll
held and fell among the coils of snaky fuse; but that did not trouble
them; and it was only when Vane was breathless that he changed places
with his companion. They heard neither the turmoil of the flood nor the
crashing of the timber, and the foam that lapped their long boots whirled
unheeded by.

About them, bowed figures that breathed in stertorous gasps grappled
desperately with the grinding, smashing timber. Sometimes they were
forced up in harsh distinctness by a dazzling glare; sometimes they faded
into blurred shadows as the pulsating flame upon the bank sank a little
or was momentarily blown aside; but all the while gorged veins rose on
bronzed foreheads and toil-hardened muscles were taxed to the utmost. At
last, when a trunk rolled beneath him, Carroll missed a stroke and
realized with a shock of dismay that it was not the drill he had struck
with his hammer.

"I couldn't help it!" he gasped. "Where did I hit you?"

"Get on!" Vane cried hoarsely; "I can hold the drill."

Carroll struck for a few more minutes, and then flung down the hammer and
inserted the giant-powder into the holes sunk in the stone. He lighted
the fuse and, warning the others, they hastily recrossed the dangerous
bridge. They had reached the edge of the forest when, a flash leaped up
amid the foam and a sharp crash was followed by a deafening, drawn-out
uproar. Rending, grinding, smashing, the jam broke up. It hammered upon
the partly shattered boulder, and, carrying it away or driving over it,
washed in tremendous ruin down the rapid. When the wild clamor had
subsided, Salter gave the men some instructions; and then, as they
approached the lamp, he noticed Vane's reddened hand.

"That looks a nasty smash; you want to get it seen to," he advised.

"I'll get it dressed at the settlement; we'll make an early start
to-morrow. We were lucky in breaking the jam; but you'll have the same
trouble over again any time a heavy flood brings down an unusual quantity
of driftwood."

"It's what I'd expect."

"Then something will have to be done to prevent it. I'll go into the
matter when I reach the city."

Carroll and Vane walked back to the shack, where the latter bound up his
comrade's injured hand. When he had done so, Vane managed to light a
cigar, and lying back, still very wet, he looked thoughtful.

"We can't risk having the workings drowned; but I'm afraid the cost of
the remedy will force me into sanctioning some scheme for increasing
our capital."

"Its a very common procedure," Carroll rejoined. "I've wondered why
you had so strong an objection to it. Of course, I've heard your
business reasons."

Vane smiled.

"I have some of a different kind--we'll call them sentimental
ones--though I don't think I quite realized it until lately."

"You're not given to introspection. Go on; I think I know what's coming."

"To put the thing into words may help me to formulate my ideas; they're
rather hazy. Well, ostensibly, I left England as the result of a
difference of opinion--which I've regretted ever since--though I know now
that really it was from another cause. I wanted room, I wanted freedom;
and I got them both--freedom either to do work that nearly broke my heart
and wore the flesh off me or to starve."

"The experience is not an unusual one."

"Eventually," Vane proceeded, "I managed to get on my feet. I suppose I
got rather proud of myself when I beat the city men over the floating of
the mine, and I began to think of going back to the sphere of life in
which I was born--excuse the phrase."

"It looked nice, from a distance," Carroll suggested.

"It was tolerable in Vancouver; anyway, while I could go straight ahead
and interest myself in the development of the mine. I began to expect a
good deal from my English visit."

Carroll laughed softly before he helped him out.

"And you were bitterly disappointed. It's a very old tale. You had cut
loose--and you couldn't get back when you wanted to."

"I suppose I'd changed: the bush had got hold of me. The ways and views
of the people over yonder didn't seem to be those I remembered. They
couldn't look at things from my standpoint; I wouldn't adopt theirs. You
and I have had to face--realities."

"Hunger," corrected Carroll softly; "wet snow to sleep in; bodily
exhaustion. They probably teach one something, or, at any rate, they
alter one's point of view. When you've marched for days on half rations,
some things don't seem so important--how you put on your clothes, for
instance, or how your dinner's served. But I don't see yet what bearing
this has on your reluctance to extend the Clermont operations."

"I could act as director, with such men as Nairn, when it was a question
of running a mine; but it's doubtful if I'd make a successful financial
juggler. It's hard to keep one's hands off some of the professional
tricksters. Bluff, assumption, make-believe--Pshaw! I've had enough of
them. Better stick to the ax and cross-cut; that's what I feel to-night."

"Now that you've relieved your mind, I'll show you where you were wrong.
You said that you had changed in the wilderness--you haven't; your kind
are fore-loopers born. Your place is with the vedettes, ahead of the
massed columns. But there's a point that strikes one--is your objection
to financial scheming due to honesty or pride?"

Vane laughed.

"I suspect a good deal of it's bad temper. Anyhow, I've felt that rather
than truckle with that fellow Horsfield I'd like to pitch him down the
stairs. But all this is pretty random talk."

"It is," Carroll agreed. "You haven't said whether you intend to
authorize that extension of capital?"

"I suppose it will have to be done. And now it's very late and I'm going
to sleep."

They retired to the wooden bunks Salter had placed at their disposal; and
early the next morning they left the mine. Vane got his hand dressed when
they reached the little mining town at the head of the railroad, and on
the following day they arrived in Vancouver.



The short afternoon was drawing toward its close when Vane came out
of a large building in the city. Glancing at his watch, he stopped on
the steps.

"The meeting went pretty satisfactorily, taking it all round," he
remarked to Carroll.

"I think so," agreed his companion. "But I'm far from sure that Horsfield
was pleased with the stockholders' decision."

Vane smiled in a thoughtful manner. After returning from the mine, he had
gone inland to examine a new irrigation property in which he had been
asked to take an interest, and had got back only in time for a meeting of
the Clermont shareholders, which Nairn had arranged in his absence. The
meeting, of the kind that is sometimes correctly described as
extraordinary, was just over, and though Vane had been forced to yield to
a majority on some points, he had secured the abandonment of a
proposition he considered dangerous.

"Though I don't see what the man could have gained by it, I'm inclined to
believe that if Nairn and I had been absent he'd have carried his total
reconstruction scheme. That wouldn't have pleased me."

"I thought it injudicious."

"It was only because we must raise more money that I agreed to the issue
of the new block of shares," Vane went on. "We ought to pay a fair
dividend on the moderate sum in question."

"You think you'll get it?"

"I've not much doubt."

Carroll made no reply to this. Vane was capable and forceful; but his
abilities were of a practical rather than a diplomatic order, and he was
occasionally addicted to somewhat headstrong action. Knowing that he had
a very cunning antagonist intriguing against him, his companion had

"Shall we walk back to the hotel?" he suggested.

"No," answered Vane; "I'll go across and see how Celia Hartley's getting
on. I'm afraid I've been forgetting her."

"Then I'll come too. You may need me; there are matters which you're not
to be trusted to deal with alone."

Just then Nairn came down the steps and waved his hand to them.

"Ye will no forget that Mrs. Nairn is expecting both of ye this evening."

He passed on, and they set off together across the city toward the
district where Celia lived. Though the quarter in question may have been
improved out of existence since, a few years ago rows of low-rented
shacks stood upon mounds of sweating sawdust which had been dumped into a
swampy hollow. Leaky, frail and fissured, they were not the kind of
places anyone who could help it would choose to live in; but Vane found
the sick girl still installed in one of the worst of them. She looked
pale and haggard; but she was busily at work upon some millinery; and the
light of a tin lamp showed Drayton and Kitty Blake sitting near her.
There were cracks in the thin, boarded walls, from which a faint resinous
odor exuded, but it failed to hide the sour smell of the wet sawdust upon
which the shack was built. The room, which was almost bare of furniture,
felt damp and unwholesome.

"You oughtn't to be at work; you don't look fit," Vane said to Celia. He
paused a moment, hesitating, before he added: "I'm sorry we couldn't find
that spruce; but, as I told Drayton, we're going back to try again."

The girl smiled bravely.

"Then you'll find it the next time. I'm glad I'm able to do a little; it
brings in a few dollars."

"But what are you doing?"

"Making hats. I did one for Miss Horsfield, and afterward some friends of
hers sent me two or three more to trim. She said she'd try to get me work
from one of the big stores."

"But you're not a milliner, are you?" asked Vane, feeling grateful to
Jessy for the practical way in which she had kept her promise to assist.

"Celia's something better," Kitty broke in. "She's a genius."

"Isn't that a slight on the profession?" Vane laughed.

He was anxious to lead the conversation away from Miss Horsfield's
action; he shrank from figuring as the benefactor who had prompted her.

"I'm not quite sure," he continued, "what genius really is."

"I don't altogether agree with the definition of it as the capacity for
taking infinite pains," Carroll, guessing his companion's thoughts,
remarked with mock sententiousness. "In Miss Hartley's case, it strikes
me as the instinctive ability to evolve a finished work of art from a few
fripperies, without the aid of technical training. Give her two or three
feathers, a yard of ribbon and a handful of mixed sundries, and she'll
magically transmute them into--this."

He took up a hat from the table and surveyed it with an air of critical

"It was innate genius that set this plume at the one artistic angle. Had
it been done by less capable hands, the thing would have looked like a
decorated beehive."

The others laughed, and he led them on to general chatter, under cover of
which Vane presently drew Drayton to the door.

"The girl looks far from fit," he said. "Has the doctor been over

"Two or three days ago," answered Drayton. "We've been worried about
Celia. It's out of the question that she should go back to the hotel, and
she can only manage to work a few hours daily. There's another thing--the
clerk of the fellow who owns these shacks has just been along for his
rent. It's overdue."

"Where's he now?"

Drayton laughed, for the sounds of a vigorous altercation rose from
farther up the unlighted street.

"I guess he's yonder, having some more trouble with his collecting."

"I'll fix that matter, anyway."

Vane disappeared into the darkness, and it was some time later when
he re-entered the shack. He waited until a remark of Celia's gave
him a lead.

"You're really a partner in the lumber scheme," he told her; "I can't
see why you shouldn't draw part of your share in the proceeds

"The first payment isn't to be made until you find the spruce and get
your lease," the girl reminded him. "You've already paid a hundred
dollars that we had no claim on."

"That doesn't matter; I'm going to find it."

"Yes," agreed Celia, with a look of confidence, "I think you will.
But"--a flicker of color crept into her thin face--"I can't take any more
money until it is found."

Vane, failing in another attempt to shake her resolution, dropped the
subject, and soon afterward he and Carroll took their departure. They
were sitting in their hotel, waiting for dinner, when Carroll looked up
lazily from his luxurious chair.

"What are you thinking about so hard?" he inquired.

Vane glanced meaningly round the elaborately furnished room.

"There's a contrast between all this and that rotten shack. Did you
notice that Celia never stopped sewing while we were there, though she
once or twice leaned back rather heavily in her chair?"

"I did. I suppose you're going to propound another conundrum of a kind
I've heard before--why you should have so many things you don't
particularly need, while Miss Hartley must go on sewing when she's hardly
able for it in her most unpleasant shack? I don't know whether the fact
that you found a mine answers the question; but if it doesn't the thing's
beyond your philosophy."

"Come off!" Vane bade him with signs of impatience. "There are times
when your moralizing gets on one's nerves. Anyhow, I straightened out one
difficulty--I found the rent man, who'd been round worrying her, and got
rid of him."

Carroll groaned in mock dismay, which covered some genuine annoyance with
himself; but Vane frowned.

"What's the matter?" he inquired. "Do you want a drink?"

"I'll get over it," Carroll informed him. "It isn't the first time I've
suffered from the same complaint. But I'd like to point out that your
chivalrous impulses may be the ruin of you some day. Why didn't you let
Drayton settle with the man? You gave him a check, I suppose?"

"Sure. I'd only a few loose dollars with me." Vane frowned again. "Now I
see what you're driving at; and I want to say that any little reputation
I possess can pretty well take care of itself."

"Just so. No doubt it will be necessary; but it doesn't seem to have
struck you that you're not the only person concerned."

"It didn't," Vane confessed with a further show of irritation. "But who's
likely to hear or take any notice of the thing?"

"I can't tell; but you make enemies as well as friends, and you're
walking in slippery places which you're not altogether accustomed to. You
can't meet your difficulties with the ax here."

"That's true," assented Vane. "It's rather a pity. Anyhow, I'm not to be
scared out of my interest in Celia Hartley."

"What is your interest in her? It's a question that may be asked."

"As you pretend that you don't know, I'll have pleasure in telling you
again. When I first struck this city, played out and ragged, she was
waitress at a little hotel, and she brought me a double portion of the
nicest things at supper. What's more, she sewed up some of my clothes,
and I struck a job on the strength of looking comparatively decent. It's
the kind of thing you're apt to remember. One doesn't meet with too much
kindness in this blamed censorious world."

"I'd expect you to remember," Carroll smiled.

They went in to dinner and when the meal was over they walked across to
Nairn's. They were ushered into a room in which several other guests were
assembled, and Vane sat down beside Jessy Horsfield. A place on the sofa
she occupied was invitingly empty; he did not know, of course, that she
had adroitly got rid of her previous companion as soon as he came in.

"I want to thank you; I was over at Miss Hartley's this
afternoon," he began.

"I understood that you were at the mining meeting."

"So I was, your brother would tell you that--"

Vane broke off, remembering that he had defeated Horsfield; but Jessy
laughed encouragingly.

"He did so--you were opposed to him; but it doesn't follow that I share
all his views. Perhaps I ought to be a stauncher partizan."

"If you'll be just to both of us, I'll be satisfied."

Jessy reflected that while this was, no doubt, a commendable sentiment,
he might have made a better use of the opening she had given him by at
least hinting that he would value her sympathy.

"I suppose that means that you're convinced of the equity of your cause?"
she suggested.

"I dare say I deserve the rebuke; but aren't you trying to switch me off
the subject?" Vane retorted with a laugh. "It's Celia Hartley that I want
to talk about."

He did her an injustice. Jessy felt that she had earned his gratitude,
and she had no objection to his expressing it.

"It was a happy thought of yours to give her hats and things to make; I'm
ever so much obliged to you," he went on. "I felt that you could be
trusted to think of the right thing. An ingenious idea of that kind would
never have occurred to me."

Jessy smiled up at him.

"It was very simple," she said sweetly. "I noticed a hat and dress of
hers, which she admitted she had made. The girl has some talent; I'm only
sorry I can't keep her busy."

"Couldn't you give her an order for a dozen hats? I'd be glad to be

Jessy laughed.

"The difficulty would be the disposal of them. They would be of no use to
you; and I couldn't allow you to present them to me."

"I wish I could," Vane declared. "You certainly deserve them."

This was satisfactory, so far as it went, though Jessy would have
preferred that his desire to bestow the favor should have sprung from
some other motive than a recognition of her services to Celia Hartley.
She was, however, convinced that his only feeling toward the girl was
one of compassion. Then she saw that he was looking at her with
half-humorous annoyance in his face.

"Are you really grieved because I won't take those hats?" she
asked lightly.

"I am," Vane confessed, and then proceeded to explain with rather
unnecessary ingenuousness: "I'm still more vexed with the state of things
that it's typical of--I suppose I mean the restrictedness of this
civilized life. When you want to do anything in the bush, you take the ax
and set about it; but here you're continually running up against some
quite unnecessary barrier."

"One understands that it's worse in England," Jessy returned dryly.
"But in regard to Miss Hartley, I'll recommend her to my friends, as
far as I can."

Vane made an abrupt movement, and Jessy realized by his expression that
he had suddenly become oblivious of her presence. She had no doubt about
the reason, for just then Evelyn Chisholm had entered the room. The
lamplight fell upon her as she crossed the threshold, and Jessy
recognized unwillingly that she looked surprisingly handsome. Handsome,
however, was not the word Vane would have used. He thought Evelyn looked
exotic: highly cultivated, strangely refined, as though she had grown up
in a rarefied atmosphere in which nothing rank could thrive. Exactly what
suggested this it was difficult to define; but the man felt that she had
brought along with her the clean, chill air of the heights where the
cloud-berries bloom. She was a flower of the dim and misty North, which
has nevertheless its flashes of radiant, ethereal beauty. Though Evelyn
had her faults, the impression she made on Vane was, perhaps, more or
less justifiable.

Then he remembered that the girl had been offered to him and he had
refused the gift. He wondered how he had exerted the necessary strength
of will, for he was conscious that admiration, respect, pity, had now,
changed and melted into sudden passion. His blood tingled, and he felt
strangely happy.

Laying a check upon his thoughts, he resumed a desultory conversation
with Jessy, but he betrayed himself several times during it, for no
change of his expression was lost upon the girl. At length she let him
go. It was some time, however, before he secured a place beside Evelyn, a
little apart from the others. He was now unusually quiet and

"Nairn promised me an astonishment this evening, but it exceeds all my
expectations," he said. "How are your people?"

Evelyn informed him that their health was satisfactory and added,
watching him the while:

"Gerald sent his best remembrances."

"Thank you," Vane responded in a casual manner; "I am glad to have them."

Evelyn was now convinced that Mabel had been correct in concluding that
he had assisted Gerald financially, though she was aware that nothing
would induce either of the men to acquaint her with the fact.

"And Mopsy?" he inquired.

"I left her in tears because she could not come. She sent you so many
confused messages that I'm afraid I've forgotten them."

Vane's face grew gentle.

"Dear little girl! It's a pity you couldn't have brought her. Mopsy and
I are great friends."

Evelyn smiled at him. The tenderness of the man appealed to her; and she
knew that to be the friend of anyone meant a good deal to him.

"You are her hero," she told him. "I don't think it is because you pulled
her out of the water, either; in fact, I think you won her regard when
you mended her canoe. You have a reputation to keep up with Mopsy."

There was no answering smile in Vane's eyes.

"Well, I shouldn't like to disappoint her; but isn't it curious what
effect some things have? A patch on Mopsy's canoe, for instance--and I've
known a piece of cold pie carry with it a big obligation."

The last was somewhat cryptic, and Evelyn looked at him with surprise,
until it dawned on her that he had merely been half-consciously
expressing a wandering thought aloud.

"I understood from Mrs. Nairn that you were away in the bush," she said.

"That was the case; and I'm shortly going off again. Perhaps it's
fortunate that I may be away some time. It will leave you more at ease."

The last remark was more of a question than an assertion. Evelyn knew
that the man could be direct; and she esteemed candor.

"No," she answered; "I shouldn't wish you to think that--and I shouldn't
like to believe that I had anything to do with driving you away."

Vane saw a faintly warmer tone show through the clear pallor of her skin,
but while his heart beat faster than usual he recognized that she meant
just what she said and nothing more. He must proceed with caution, and
this, on the whole, was foreign to him. Shortly afterward he left her.

When he had gone, Evelyn sat thinking about him. She had shrunk from the
man in rebellious alarm when her parents would have bestowed her hand on
him; but even then, and undoubtedly afterward, she had felt that there
was something in his nature which would have attracted her had she been
willing to allow it to do so. Now, though he had said nothing to rouse
it, the feeling had grown stronger. Then she remembered with a curious
smile her father's indignation when Vane had withdrawn from the field. He
had done this because she had appealed to his generosity, and she had
been grateful to him; but, unreasonable as she admitted the faint
resentment she was conscious of to be, the recollection of the fact that
he had yielded to her wishes was somehow bitter.

In the meanwhile Carroll had taken his place by Jessy's side.

"I understand that you steered your comrade satisfactorily through the
meeting to-day," she began.

"No," objected Carrol; "I can't claim any credit for doing so. In matters
of that kind Vane takes full control; and I'm willing to own that he
drove us all, including your brother, on the course he chose."

Jessy laughed good-humoredly.

"Then it's in other matters you exercise a little judicious pressure on
the helm?"

The man looked at her in well-assumed admiration of her keenness.

"I don't know how you guessed it, but I suppose it's a fact. It's an open
secret, however, that Vane's now and then unguardedly ingenuous; indeed,
there are respects in which he's a babe by comparison with, we'll say,
either of us."

"That's rather a dubious compliment. By the way, what do you think of
Miss Chisholm? I suppose you saw a good deal of her in England?"

Carroll's eyes twinkled.

"I spent a month or two in her company; so did Vane. I fancy she's rather
like him in several ways; and there are reasons for believing that he
thinks a good deal of her."

Having watched Vane carefully when Evelyn came in, Jessy was inclined to
agree with him. She glanced round the room. One or two people were moving
about and the others were talking in little groups; but there was nobody
very near, and she fancied that she and her companion were safe from

"What are some of the reasons?" she asked boldly.

Carroll had expected some question of this description, and had decided
to answer it plainly. It seemed probable that Jessy would get the
information out of him in one way or another, anyway; and he had also
another reason, which he thought a commendable one. Jessy had obviously
taken a certain interest in Vane, but it could not have gone very far as
yet, and Vane did not reciprocate it. His comrade, however, was
impulsive, while Jessy was calculating and clever; and Carroll foresaw
that complications might follow any increase of friendliness between her
and Vane. He thought it might be wise to warn her to leave Vane alone.

"Well," he answered, "since you have asked, I'll try to tell you."

He proceeded to recount what had passed at the Dene and Jessy listened,
sitting perfectly still, with an expressionless face.

"So he gave her up--because he admired her?" she said at length.

"That's my view of it. Of course, it sounds unlikely, but I don't think
it is so in my partner's case."

Jessy made no comment, but he felt that she was hit hard, and that was
not what he had anticipated. He began to wonder whether he had acted
judiciously. He glanced about the room, as it did not seem considerate to
study her expression just then. A few moments later she turned to him
with a smile in which there was the faintest hint of strain.

"I dare say you are right; but there are one or two people to whom I
haven't spoken."

She moved away from him, and a little while afterward Mrs. Nairn came
upon Carroll standing for the moment alone.

"It's no often one sees ye looking moody," she said. "Was Jessy no

"That," replied Carroll, smiling, "is not the difficulty. I'm an
unsusceptible and a somewhat inconspicuous person--not worth powder and
shot, so to speak; for which I'm sometimes thankful. I believe it saves
me a good deal of trouble."

"Then is it something Vane has done that is on your mind? Doubtless, ye
feel him a responsibility."

"He's what you'd call all that," Carroll declared. "Still, you see, I've
constituted myself his guardian. I don't know why; he'd probably be very
vexed if he suspected it."

"The gods give ye a good conceit of yourself," Mrs. Nairn laughed.

"I need it. This afternoon I let him do a most injudicious thing; and now
I've done another which I fear is worse. On the whole, I think I'd better
take him away to the bush. He'd be safer there."

"Ye will no; no just now," declared his hostess firmly.

Carroll made a sign of resignation.

"Oh, well," he agreed, "if you say so. I'm quite willing to stand out and
let things alone. Too many cooks are apt to spoil the kale."

Mrs. Nairn left him, but she afterward glanced thoughtfully once or twice
at Vane and Evelyn, who had again drawn together.



Vane sat in Nairn's office with a frown on his face. Specimens of ore
lately received from the mine were scattered about a table and Nairn had
some papers in his hand.

"Weel?" inquired the Scotchman when Vane, after examining two or three of
the stones, abruptly flung them down.

"The ore's running poorer. On the other hand, I partly expected this.
There's better stuff in the reef. We're a little too high, for one thing;
I look for more encouraging results when we start the lower heading."

He went into details of the new operations, and when he finished Nairn
looked up from the figures he had been jotting down.

"Yon workings will cost a good deal," he pointed out "Ye will no be able
to make a start until we're sure of the money."

"We ought to get it."

Nairn looked thoughtful.

"A month or two ago, I would have agreed with ye; but general investors
are kittle folk, and the applications for the new stock are no numerous."

"Howitson promised to subscribe largely; and Bendle pledged himself to
take a considerable block."

"I'm no denying it. But we have no been favored with their formal
applications yet."

"You had better tell me if you have anything particular in your mind,"
Vane said bluntly.

An unqualified affirmation is not strictly in accordance with the
Scottish character, and Nairn was seldom rash.

"I would have ye remember what I told ye about the average investor," he
replied. "He has no often the boldness to trust his judgment nor the
sense to ken a good thing when he sees it--he waits for a lead, and then
joins the rush when other folk are going in. What makes a mineral or
other stock a favorite for a time is now and then no easy to determine;
but we'll allow that it becomes so--ye will see men who should have mair
sense thronging to buy and running the price up. Like sheep they come in,
each following the other; and like sheep they run out, if anything scares
them. It's no difficult to start a panic."

"The plain English of it is that the mine is not so popular as it was,"
retorted Vane impatiently.

"I'm thinking something of the kind," Nairn agreed. Then he proceeded
with a cautious explanation: "The result of the first reduction and the
way ye forced the concern on the market secured ye notice. Folk put their
money on ye, looking for sensational developments, and when the latter
are no forthcoming they feel a bit sore and disappointed."

"There's nothing discouraging in our accounts. Even if the ore all ran as
poor as that,"--Vane pointed to the specimens on the table--"the mine
could be worked on a reasonably satisfactory paying basis. We have
issued no statements that could spread alarm."

"Just so. What was looked for was more than reasonable satisfaction--ye
have no come up to expectations. Forby, it's my opinion that damaging
reports have somehow leaked out from the mine. Just now I see clouds on
the horizon."

"Bendle pledged himself to take up a big block of the shares," repeated
Vane. "If Howitson does the same, as he said he would, our position would
be secure. As soon as it was known that they were largely interested,
others would follow them."

"Now ye have it in a nutshell--it would put a wet blanket on the project
if they both backed down. In the meanwhile we canna hurry them. Ye will
have to give them time."

Vane rose.

"We'll leave it at that. I've promised to take Mrs. Nairn and Miss
Chisholm for a sail."

By the time he reached the water-front he had got rid of the slight
uneasiness the interview had occasioned him. He found Mrs. Nairn and
Evelyn awaiting him with Carroll in attendance, and in a few minutes they
were rowing off to the sloop. As they approached her, the elder lady
glanced with evident approval at the craft, which swam, a gleaming ivory
shape, upon the shining green brine.

"Ye have surely been painting the boat," she exclaimed. "Was that for

Vane disregarded the question.

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