The Hidden Places
by Bertrand W. Sinclair
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On one of these journeys he came out upon the rim of the great cliff which rose like a wall of masonry along the southern edge of the flats in the Big Bend. It was a clear day. Hollister had a pair of very powerful binoculars. He gazed from this height down on the settlement, on the reeking chimneys of those distant houses, on the tiny black objects that were men moving against a field of white. He could hear a faint whirring which he took to be the machinery of a sawmill. He could see on the river bank and at another point in the nearby woods the feathery puff of steam. He often wondered about these people, buried, like himself, in this snow-blanketed and mountain-ringed remoteness. Who were they? What manner of folk were they? He trifled with this curiosity. But it did not seriously occur to him that by two or three hours' tramping he could answer these idle speculations at first hand. Or if it did occur to him he shrank from the undertaking as one shrinks from a dubious experiment which has proved a failure in former trials.

But this day, under a frosty sky in which a February sun hung listless, Hollister turned his glasses on the cabin of the settler near his camp. He was on the edge of the cliff, so close that when he dislodged a fragment of rock it rolled over the brink, bounded once from the cliff's face, and after a lapse that grew to seconds struck with a distant thud among the timber at the foot of the precipice. Looking down through the binoculars it was as if he sat on the topmost bough of a tall tree in the immediate neighborhood of the cabin, although he was fully half a mile distant. He could see each garment of a row on a line. He could distinguish colors—a blue skirt, the deep green of salal and second-growth cedar, the weathered hue of the walls.

And while he stared a woman stepped out of the doorway and stood looking, turning her head slowly until at last she gazed steadily up over the cliff-brow as if she might be looking at Hollister himself. He sat on his haunches in the snow, his elbows braced on his knees, and trained the powerful lenses upon her. In a matter of half a minute her gaze shifted, turned back to the river. She shrugged her shoulders, or perhaps it was a shiver born of the cold, and then went back inside.

Hollister rested the binoculars upon his knee. His face did not alter. Facile expression was impossible to that marred visage. Pain or anger or sorrow could no longer write its message there for the casual beholder to read. The thin, twisted remnants of his lips could tighten a little, and that was all.

But his eyes, which had miraculously escaped injury, could still glow with the old fire, or grow dull and lifeless, giving some index to the mutations of his mind. And those darkly blue eyes, undimmed beacons amid the wreckage of his features, burned and gleamed now with a strange fire.

The woman who had been standing there staring up the hillside, with the sun playing hide and seek in her yellow hair, was Myra Hollister, his wife.


Hollister sat in the snow, his gaze fixed upon this house on the river bank, wrestling with all the implications of this incredible discovery. He could neither believe what he had seen nor deny the evidence of his vision. He kept watch, with the glasses ready to fix upon the woman if she emerged again. But she did not reappear. The cold began to chill his body, to stiffen his limbs. He rose at last and made his way along the cliff, keeping always a close watch on the house below until he came abreast of his own quarters and turned reluctantly into the hollow where the cedars masked the log cabin.

He cooked a meal and ate his food in a mechanical sort of abstraction, troubled beyond measure, rousing himself out of periods of concentration in which there seemed, curiously, to be two of him present,—one questioning and wondering, the other putting forward critical and sneering answers, pointing out the folly of his wonder.

In the end he began to entertain a real doubt not only of the correctness of his sight, but also of his sanity. For it was clearly impossible, his reason insisted, that Myra would be pioneering in those snowy solitudes, that she should live in a rude shack among stumps on the fringe of a wilderness. She had been a creature of luxury. Hollister could not conceive a necessity for her doing this. He had so arranged his affairs when he went to France that she had access to and complete control of his fortune. When she disclosed to him by letter the curious transformation of her affections, he had not revoked that arrangement. In the bewildering shock of that disclosure his first thought had not been a concern for his property. And the official report of him as killed in action which followed so soon after had allowed her to reap the full benefit of this situation. When she left London, if indeed she had left London, with her new associate in the field of emotion she had at least forty-five thousand dollars in negotiable securities.

And if so—then why?

Hollister's reason projected him swiftly and surely out of pained and useless speculation into forthright doing. From surety of what he had seen he passed to doubt, to uneasiness about himself: for if he could not look at a fair-haired woman without seeing Myra's face, then he must be going mad. He must know, beyond any equivocation.

There was a simple way to know, and that way Hollister took while the embers of his noonday fire still glowed red on the hearth. He took his glasses and went down to the valley floor.

It would have been a simple matter and the essence of directness to walk boldly up and rap at the door. Certainly he would not be recognized. He could account for himself as a traveler in need of matches, some trifling thing to be borrowed. The wilderness is a destroyer of conventions. The passer-by needs to observe no ceremony. He comes from nowhere and passes into the unknown, unquestioned as to his name, his purpose, or his destination. That is the way of all frontiers.

But Hollister wished to see without being seen. He did not know why. He did not attempt to fathom his reluctance for open approach. In the social isolation which his disfigurement had inflicted upon him, Hollister had become as much guided by instinct in his actions and impulses as by any coldly reasoned process. He was moved to his stealthy approach now by an instinct which he obeyed as blindly as the crawling worm.

He drew up within fifty yards of the house, moving furtively through thickets that screened him, and took up his post beside a stump. He peered through the drooping boughs of a clump of young cedar. There, in perfect concealment, hidden as the deer hides to let a roving hunter pass, Hollister watched with a patience which was proof against cold, against the discomfort of snow that rose to his thighs.

For an hour he waited. Except for the wavering smoke from the stovepipe, the place might have been deserted. The house was one with the pervading hush of the valley. Hollister grew numb. But he held his post. And at last the door opened and the woman stood framed in the opening.

She poised for an instant on the threshold, looking across the river. Her gaze pivoted slowly until it encompassed the arc of a half-circle, so that she faced Hollister squarely. He had the binoculars focused on her face. It seemed near enough to touch. Then she took a step or two gingerly in the snow, and stooping, picked up a few sticks from a pile of split wood. The door closed upon her once more.

Hollister turned upon the instant, retraced his steps across the flat, gained the foot of the steep hill and climbed step by step with prodigious effort in the deep snow until he reached the cabin.

He had reaffirmed the evidence of his eyes, and was no longer troubled by the vague fear that a disordered imagination had played him a disturbing trick. He had looked on his wife's face beyond a question. He accepted this astounding fact as a man must accept the indubitable. She was here in the flesh,—this fair-haired, delicate-skinned woman whose arms and lips had once been his sure refuge. Here, in a rude cabin on the brink of a frozen river, chance had set her neighbor to him. To what end Hollister neither knew nor wished to inquire. He said to himself that it did not matter. He repeated this aloud. He believed it to be true. How could it matter now?

But he found that it did matter in a way that he had not reckoned upon. For he found that he could not ignore her presence there. He could not thrust her into the outer darkness beyond the luminous circle of his thoughts. She haunted him with a troublesome insistence. He had loved her. She had loved him. If that love had gone glimmering there still remained memory from which he could not escape, memories of caresses and embraces, of mutual passion, of all they had been to each other through a time when they desired only to be all things to each other. These things arose like ghosts out of forgotten chambers in his mind. He could not kill memory, and since he was a man, a physically perfect man, virile and unspent, memory tortured him.

He could not escape the consequences of being, the dominant impulses of life. No normal man can. He may think he can. He may rest secure for a time in that belief,—but it will fail him. And of this Hollister now became aware.

He made every effort to shake off this new besetment, this fresh assault upon the tranquility he had attained. But he could not abolish recollection. He could not prevent his mind from dwelling upon this woman who had once meant so much to him, nor his flesh from responding to the stimulus of her nearness. When a man is thirsty he must drink. When he is hungry food alone can satisfy that hunger. And there arose in Hollister that ancient sex-hunger from which no man may escape.

It had been dormant in him for a time; dormant but not dead. In all his life Hollister had never gone about consciously looking upon women with a lustful eye. But he understood life, its curious manifestations, its sensory demands, its needs. For a long time pain, grief, suffering of body and anguish of mind had suppressed in him every fluttering of desire. He had accepted that apparent snuffing out of passion thankfully. Where, he had said to himself when he thought of this, where would he find such a woman as he could love who would find pleasure in the embrace of a marred thing like himself? Ah, no. He had seen them shrink too often from mere sight of his twisted face. The fruits of love were not for the plucking of such as he. Therefore he was glad that the urge of sex no longer troubled him.

Yet here in a brief span, amid these silent hills and dusky forests where he had begun to perceive that life might still have compensations for him, this passivity had been overthrown, swept away, destroyed. He could not look out over the brow of that cliff without thinking of the woman in the valley below. He could not think of her without the floodgates of his recollection loosing their torrents. He had slept with her head pillowed in the crook of his arm. He had been wakened by the warm pressure of her lips on his. All the tender intimacies of their life together had lurked in his subconsciousness, to rise and torture him now.

And it was torture. He would tramp far along those slopes and when he looked too long at some distant peak he would think of Myra. He would sit beside his fireplace with one of Doris Cleveland's books in his hand and the print would grow blurred and meaningless. In the glow of the coals Myra's face would take form and mock him with a seductive smile. Out of the gallery of his mind pictures would come trooping, and in each the chief figure was that fair-haired woman who had been his wife. At night while he slept, he was hounded by dreams in which the conscious repression of his waking hours went by the board and he was delivered over to the fantastic deviltries of the subconscious.

Hollister had never been a sentimental fool, nor a sensualist whose unrestrained passions muddied the streams of his thought. But he was a man, aware of both mind and body. Neither functioned mechanically. Both were complex. By no effort of his will could he command the blood in his veins to course less hotly. By no exercise of any power he possessed could he force his mind always to do his bidding. He did not love this woman whose nearness so profoundly disturbed him. Sometimes he hated her consciously, with a volcanic intensity that made his fingers itch for a strangling grip upon her white throat. She had ripped up by the roots his faith in life and love at a time when he sorely needed that faith, when the sustaining power of some such faith was his only shield against the daily impact of bloodshed and suffering and death, of all the nerve-shattering accompaniments of war.

Yet he suffered from the spur of her nearness, those haunting pictures of her which he could not bar out of his mind, those revived memories of alluring tenderness, of her clinging to him with soft arms and laughter on her lips.

He would stand on the rim of the cliff, looking down at the house by the river, thinking the unthinkable, attracted and repulsed, a victim to his imagination and the fever of his flesh, until it seemed to him sometimes that in the loaded chamber of his rifle lay the only sure avenue of escape from these vain longings, from unattainable desire.

Slowly a desperate resolution formed within his seething brain, shadowy at first, recurring again and again with insistent persuasion, until it no longer frightened him as it did at first, no longer made him shrink and feel a loathing of himself.

She was his wife. She had ceased to care for him. She had given herself to another man. No matter, she was still his. Legally, beyond any shadow of a doubt. The law and the Church had joined them together. Neither man nor God had put them asunder, and the law had not released them from their bonds. Then, if he wanted her, why should he not take her?

Watching the house day after day, hours at a stretch, Hollister brooded over this new madness. But it no longer seemed to him madness. It came to seem fit and proper, a matter well within his rights. He postulated a hypothetical situation; if he, officially dead, resurrected himself and claimed her, who was there to say him nay if he demanded and exacted a literal fulfilment of her solemn covenant to "love, honor, and obey?" She herself? Hollister snapped his fingers. The man she lived with? Hollister dismissed him with an impatient gesture.

The purely animal man, which is never wholly extinguished, which merely lurks unsuspected under centuries of cultural veneer to rise lustily when slowly acquired moralities shrivel in the crucible of passion, now began to actuate Hollister with a strange cunning, a ferocity of anticipation. He would repossess himself of this fair-haired woman. And she should have no voice in the matter. Very well. But how?

That was simplicity itself. No one knew such a man as he was in the Toba country. All these folk in the valley below went about unconscious of his existence in that cabin well hidden among the great cedars. All he required was the conjunction of a certain kind of weather and the absence of the man. Falling snow to cover the single track that should lead to this cabin, to bury the dual footprints that should lead away. The absence of the man was to avoid a clash: not because Hollister feared that; simply because in his mind the man was not a factor to be considered, except as the possibility of his interference should be most easily avoided. Because if he did interfere he might have to kill him, and that was a complication he did not wish to invoke. Somehow he felt no grudge against this man, no jealousy.

The man's absence was a common occurrence. Hollister had observed that nearly every day he was abroad in the woods with a gun. For the obscuring storm, the obliterating snowfall, he would have to wait.

All this, every possible contingency, took form as potential action in his obsessed mind,—with neither perception nor consideration of consequences. The consummation alone urged him. The most primitive instinct swayed him. The ultimate consequences were as nothing.

This plan was scarcely formed in Hollister's brain before he modified it. He could not wait for that happy conjunction of circumstances which favored action. He must create his own circumstances. This he readily perceived as the better plan. When he sought a way it was revealed to him.

A few hundred yards above the eastern limit of the flat where his canoe was cached, there jutted into the river a low, rocky point. From the river back to the woods the wind had swept the bald surface of this little ridge clear of snow. He could go down over those sloping rocks to the glare ice of the river. He could go and come and leave no footprints, no trace. There would be no mark to betray, unless a searcher ranged well up the hillside and so came upon his track.

And if a man, searching for this woman, bore up the mountain side and came at last to the log cabin—what would he find? Only another man who had arisen after being dead and had returned to take possession of his own!

Hollister threw back his head and burst into sardonic laughter. It pleased him, this devastating jest which he was about to perpetrate upon his wife and her lover.

From the seclusion of the timber behind this point of rocks he set himself to watch through his glasses the house down the river. The second day of keeping this vigil he saw the man leave the place, gun in hand, cross on the river ice and vanish in the heavy timber of that wide bottom land. Hollister did not know what business took him on these recurrent absences; hunting, he guessed, but he had noted that the man seldom returned before late in the afternoon, and sometimes not till dusk.

He waited impatiently for an hour. Then he went down to the frozen river. Twenty minutes' rapid striding brought him to the door of the house.

The place was roughly built of split cedar. A door and a window faced the river. The window was uncurtained, a bald square of glass. The sun had grown to some little strength. The air that morning had softened to a balminess like spring. Hollister had approached unseen over snow softened by this warmth until it lost its frosty crispness underfoot. Now, through the uncurtained window, his gaze marked a section of the interior, and what he saw stayed the hand he lifted to rap on the door.

A man young, smooth-faced, dark almost to swarthiness, sat on a bench beside a table on which stood the uncleared litter of breakfast. And Myra sat also at the table with one corner of it between them. She leaned an elbow on the board and nursed her round chin in the palm of that hand, while the other was imprisoned between the two clasped hands of the man. He was bending over this caught hand, leaning eagerly toward her, speaking rapidly.

Myra sat listening. Her lips were slightly parted. Her eyelids drooped. Her breast rose and fell in a slow, rhythmic heave. Otherwise she was motionless and faintly smiling, as if she were given up to some blissful languor. And the man spoke on, caressing her imprisoned hand, stroking it, looking at her with the glow of conquest in his hot eyes.

Hollister leaned on the muzzle of his grounded rifle, staring through the window. He could see their lips move. He could hear faintly the tense murmur of the man's voice. He saw the man bend his head and press a kiss on the imprisoned hand.

He turned softly and went down the bank to the river and walked away over the ice. When he had put five hundred yards between himself and that house, he turned to look back. He put his hand to his face and wiped away drops of sweat, a clammy exudation that broke out all over his body very much as if he had just become aware of escaping by a hair's breadth some imminent and terrible disaster. In truth that was precisely his feeling,—as if he had been capering madly on the brink of some fearful abyss which he could not see until it was revealed to him in a terrifying flash.

He shivered. His ego grovelled in the dirt. He had often smiled at theories of dual personality. But standing there on the frozen stream with the white hills looming high above the green-forested lowlands he was no longer sure of anything, least of all whether in him might lurk a duality of forces which could sway him as they would. Either that, or he had gone mad for a while, a brief madness born of sex-hunger, of isolation, of brooding over unassuaged bitterness.

Perhaps he might have done what he set out to do if the man had not been there. But he did not think so now. The brake of his real manhood had begun to set upon those wild impulses before he drew up to the door and looked in the window. What he saw there only cleared with a brusque hand the cobwebs from his brain.

Fundamentally, Hollister hated trickery, deceit, unfairness, double-dealing. In his normal state he would neither lie, cheat, nor steal. He had grown up with a natural tendency to regard his own ethics as the common attribute of others. There had somehow been born in him, or had developed as an intrinsic part of his character early in life, a child-like, trustful quality of faith in human goodness. And that faith had begun to reel under grievous blows dealt it in the last four years.

Myra was not worth the taking, even if he had a legal and moral right to take her (not that he attempted to justify himself now by any such sophistry). She could not be faithful, it seemed, even to a chosen lover. The man into whose eyes she gazed with such obvious complaisance was not the man she lived with in that house on the river bank. Hollister had watched him through the glasses often enough to know. He was a tall, ruddy-faced man, a big man and handsome. Hollister had looked at him often enough, reckoning him to be an Englishman, the man Myra married in London, the man for whom she had conceived such a passion that she had torn Hollister's heart by the brutal directness of her written avowal. Hollister had watched him swinging his ax on the woodpile, going off on those long tramps in the bottom land. He might be within gunshot of the house at this moment.

Hollister found himself pitying this man. He found himself wondering if it had always been that way with Myra, if she were the helpless victim of her own senses. There were women like that. Plenty of them. Men too. Sufferers from an overstimulated sexuality. He could not doubt that. He suspected that he was touched with it himself.

What a muddle life was, Hollister reflected sadly, looking down from the last opening before he plunged into the cedar grove that hid the log cabin. Here, amid this wild beauty, this grandeur of mountain and forest, this silent land virginal in its winter garment, human passion, ancient as the hills themselves, functioned in the old, old way.

But he did not expend much thought on mere generalizations. The problem of Myra and her lovers was no longer his problem; their passions and pains were not his. Hollister understood very clearly that he had escaped an action that might have had far-reaching consequences. He was concerned with his escape and also with the possible recurrence of that strange obsession, or mood, or madness, or whatever it was that had so warped his normal outlook that he could harbor such thoughts and plan such deeds. He did not want to pass through that furnace again.

He had had enough of the Toba Valley. No, he modified that. The valley and the sentinel peaks that stood guard over it, the lowlands duskily green and full of balsamy odors from the forest, was still a goodly place to be. But old sins and sorrows and new, disturbing phases of human passion were here at his elbow to dispel the restful peace he had won for a little while. He must escape from that.

To go was not so simple as his coming. The river was frozen, that watery highway closed. But he solved the problem by knowledge gained in those casual wanderings along the ridge above the valley. He knew a direct way of gaining the Inlet head on foot.

So he spent a last night before the fireplace, staring silently into the dancing blaze, seeing strange visions in the glowing coals, lying down to heavy, dreamless sleep at last in his bunk.

At daybreak he struck out westward along the great cliff that frowned on the Big Bend, his blankets and a small emergency supply of food in a bulky pack upon his shoulders. When the sheer face of the cliff ran out to a steep, scrubbily timbered hillside, he dropped down to the valley floor and bore toward the river through a wide flat. Here he moved through a forest of cedar and spruce so high and dense that no ray of sun ever penetrated through those interlocked branches to warm the earth in which those enormous trunks were rooted. Moss hung in streamers from the lower boughs. It was dusky there in full day. The wild things of the region made this their sanctuary. Squirrels scolded as he passed. The willow grouse tamely allowed him to approach within twenty feet before they fluttered to the nearest thicket. The deep snow was crisscrossed by the tracks of innumerable deer driven down from the highlands by the deeper snow above.

For a time, in this shadowy temple of the pagan gods, Hollister was forced to depend on a pocket compass to hold a course in the direction he wished to go. But at last he came out in a slashing, a place where loggers had been recently at work. Here a donkey engine stood black and cold on its skids, half-buried in snow. Beyond this working a clear field opened, and past the field he saw the outline of the houses on the river bank and he bore straight for these to learn upon what days the steamer touched the head of Toba and how he might best gain that float upon which he had disembarked two months before.


Hollister stowed his pack in the smoking room and stood outside by the rail, watching the Toba Valley fall astern, a green fissure in the white rampart of the Coast Range. Chance, the inscrutable arbiter of human destinies, had directed him that morning to a man cutting wood on the bank of the river close by that cluster of houses where other men stirred about various tasks, where there must have been wives and mothers, for he saw a dozen children at play by a snow fort.

"Steamer?" the man answered Hollister's inquiry. "Say, if you want to catch her, you just about got time. Two fellows from here left awhile ago. If you hurry, maybe you can catch 'em. If you catch 'em before they get out over the bar, they'll give you a lift to the float. If you don't, you're stuck for a week. There's only one rowboat down there."

Hollister had caught them.

He took a last, thoughtful look. Over the vessel's bubbling wake he could see the whole head of the Inlet deep in winter snows,—a white world, coldly aloof in its grandeur. It was beautiful, full of the majesty of serene distances, of great heights. It stood forth clothed with the dignity of massiveness, of permanence. It was as it had been for centuries, calm and untroubled, unmoved by floods and slides, by fires and slow glacial changes. Yes, it was beautiful and Hollister looked a long time, for he was not sure he would see it again. He had a canoe and a tent cached in that silent valley, but for these alone he would not return. Neither the ownership of that timber which he now esteemed of doubtful value nor the event of its sale would require his presence there.

He continued to stare with an absent look in his eyes until a crook in the Inlet hid those white escarpments and outstanding peaks, and the Inlet walls—themselves lifting to dizzy heights that were shrouded in rolling mist—marked the limit of his visual range. The ship's bell tinkled the noon hour. A white-jacketed steward walked the decks, proclaiming to all and sundry that luncheon was being served. Hollister made his way to the dining saloon.

The steamer was past Salmon Bay when he returned above decks to lean on the rail, watching the shores flit by, marking with a little wonder the rapid change in temperature, the growing mildness in the air as the steamer drew farther away from the gorge-like head of Toba with its aerial ice fields and snowy slopes. Twenty miles below Salmon Bay the island-dotted area of the Gulf of Georgia began. There a snowfall seldom endured long, and the teeth of the frost were blunted by eternal rains. There the logging camps worked full blast the year around, in sunshine and drizzle and fog. All that region bordering on the open sea bore a more genial aspect and supported more people and industries in scattered groups than could be found in any of those lonely inlets.

Hollister was not thinking particularly of these things. He had eaten his meal at a table with half a dozen other men. In the saloon probably two score others applied themselves, with more diligence than refinement, to their food. There was a leavening of women in this male mass of loggers, fishermen, and what-not. A buzz of conversation filled the place. But Hollister was not a participant. He observed casual, covert glances at his disfigured face, that disarrangement of his features and marring of his flesh which made men ill at ease in his presence. He felt a recurrence of the old protest against this. He experienced a return of that depression which had driven him out of Vancouver. It was a disheartenment from which nothing in the future, no hope, no dream, could deliver him. He was as he was. He would always be like that. The finality of it appalled him.

After a time he became aware of a young woman leaning, like himself, against the rail a few feet distant. He experienced a curious degree of self-consciousness as he observed her. The thought crossed his mind that presently she would look at him and move away. When she did not, his eyes kept coming back to her with the involuntary curiosity of the casual male concerning the strange female. She was of medium height, well-formed, dressed in a well-tailored gray suit. Under the edges of a black velvet turban her hair showed glossy brown in a smooth roll. She had one elbow propped on the rail and her chin nestled in the palm. Hollister could see a clean-cut profile, the symmetrical outline of her nose, one delicately colored cheek above the gloved hand and a neckpiece of dark fur.

He wondered what she was so intent upon for so long, leaning immobile against that wooden guard. He continued to watch her. Would she presently bestow a cursory glance upon him and withdraw to some other part of the ship? Hollister waited for that with moody expectation. He found himself wishing to hear her voice, to speak to her, to have her talk to him. But he did not expect any such concession to a whimsical desire.

Nevertheless the unexpected presently occurred. The girl moved slightly. A hand-bag slipped from under her arm to the deck. She half-turned, seemed to hesitate. Instinctively, as a matter of common courtesy to a woman, Hollister took a step forward, picked it up. Quite as instinctively he braced himself, so to speak, for the shocked look that would gather like a shadow on her piquant face.

But it did not come. The girl's gaze bore imperturbably upon him as he restored the hand-bag to her hand. The faintest sort of smile lurked about the corners of a pretty mouth. Her eyes were a cloudy gray. They seemed to look out at the world with a curious impassivity. That much Hollister saw in a fleeting glance.

"Thanks, very much," she said pleasantly.

Hollister resumed his post against the rail. His movement had brought him nearer, so that he stood now within arm's length, and his interest in her had awakened, become suddenly intense. He felt a queer thankfulness, a warm inward gratefulness, that she had been able to regard his disfigurement unmoved. He wondered how she could. For months he had encountered women's averted faces, the reluctant glances of mingled pity and distaste which he had schooled himself to expect and endure but which he never ceased to resent. This girl's uncommon self-possession at close contact with him was a puzzle as well as a pleasure. A little thing, to be sure, but it warmed Hollister. It was like an unexpected gleam of sunshine out of a sky banked deep with clouds.

Presently, to his surprise, the girl spoke to him.

"Are we getting near the Channel Islands?"

She was looking directly at him, and Hollister was struck afresh with the curious quality of her gaze, the strangely unperturbed directness of her eyes upon him. He made haste to answer her question.

"We'll pass between them in another mile. You can see the western island a little off our starboard bow."

"I should be very glad if I could; but I shall have to take your word for its being there."

"I'm afraid I don't quite understand."

A smile spread over her face at the puzzled tone.

"I'm blind," she explained, with what struck Hollister as infinite patience. "If my eyes were not sightless, I shouldn't have to ask a stranger about the Channel Islands. I used to be able to see them well enough."

Hollister stared at her. He could not associate those wide gray eyes with total darkness. He could scarcely make himself comprehend a world devoid of light and color, an existence in which one felt and breathed and had being amid eternal darkness. Yet for the moment he was selfish enough to feel glad. And he said so, with uncharacteristic impulsiveness.

"I'm glad you can't see," he found himself saying. "If you could——"

"What a queer thing to say," the girl interrupted. "I thought every one always regarded a blind person as an object of pity."

There was an unmistakably sardonic inflection in the last sentence.

"But you don't find it so, eh?" Hollister questioned eagerly. He was sure he had interpreted that inflection. "And you sometimes resent that attitude, eh?"

"I daresay I do," the girl replied, after a moment's consideration. "To be unable to see is a handicap. At the same time to have pity drooled all over one is sometimes irritating. But why did you just say you were glad I was blind?"

"I didn't mean that. I meant that I was glad you couldn't see me," he explained. "One of Fritz's shells tore my face to pieces. People don't like to look at the result. Women particularly. You can't see my wrecked face, so you don't shudder and pass on. I suppose that is why I said that the way I did."

"I see. You feel a little bit glad to come across some one who doesn't know whether your face is straight or crooked? Some one who accepts you sight unseen, as she would any man who spoke and acted courteously? Is that it?"

"Yes," Hollister admitted. "That's about it."

"But your friends and relatives?" she suggested softly.

"I have no relatives in this country," he said. "And I have no friends anywhere, now."

She considered this a moment, rubbing her cheek with a gloved forefinger. What was she thinking about, Hollister wondered?

"That must be rather terrible at times. I'm not much given to slopping over, but I find myself feeling sorry for you—and you are only a disembodied voice. Your fix is something like my own," she said at last. "And I have always denied that misery loves company."

"You were right in that, too," Hollister replied. "Misery wants pleasant company. At least, that sort of misery which comes from isolation and unfriendliness makes me appreciate even chance companionship."

"Is it so bad as that?" she asked quickly. The tone of her voice made Hollister quiver, it was so unexpected, so wistful.

"Just about. I've become a stray dog in this old world. And it used to be a pretty good sort of a world for me in the old days. I'm not whining. But I do feel like kicking. There's a difference, you know."

He felt ashamed of this mild outburst as soon as it was uttered. But it was true enough, and he could not help saying it. There was something about this girl that broke down his reticence, made him want to talk, made him feel sure he would not be misunderstood.

She nodded.

"There is a great difference. Any one with any spirit will kick if there is anything to kick about. And it's always shameful to whine. You don't seem like a man who could whine."

"How can you tell what sort of man I am?" Hollister inquired. "You just said that I was only a disembodied voice."

She laughed, a musical low-toned chuckle that pleased him.

"One gets impressions," she answered. "Being sightless sharpens other faculties. You often have very definite impressions in your mind about people you have never seen, don't you?"

"Oh, yes," he agreed. "I daresay every one gets such impressions."

"Sometimes one finds those impressions are merely verified by actual sight. So there you are. I get a certain impression of you by the language you use, your tone, your inflections—and by a something else which in those who can see is called intuition, for lack of something more definite in the way of a term."

"Aren't you ever mistaken in those impressionistic estimates of people?"

She hesitated a little.

"Sometimes—not often. That sounds egotistic, but really it is true."

The steamer drew out of the mouth of Toba Inlet. In the widening stretch between the mainland and the Redondas a cold wind came whistling out of Homfray Channel. Hollister felt the chill of it through his mackinaw coat and was moved to thought of his companion's comfort.

"May I find you a warm place to sit?" he asked. "That's an uncomfortable breeze. And do you mind if I talk to you? I haven't talked to any one like you for a long time."

She smiled assent.

"Ditto to that last," she said.

"You aren't a western man, are you?" she continued, as Hollister took her by the arm and led her toward a cabin abaft the wheelhouse on the boat deck, a roomy lounging place unoccupied save by a fat woman taking a midday nap in one corner, her double chin sunk on her ample bosom.

"No," he said. "I'm from the East. But I spent some time out here once or twice, and I remembered the coast as a place I liked. So I came back here when the war was over and everything gone to pot—at least where I was concerned. My name is Hollister."

"Mine," she replied, "is Cleveland."

Hollister looked at her intently.

"Doris Cleveland—her book," he said aloud. It was to all intents and purposes a question.

"Why do you say that?" the girl asked quickly. "And how do you happen to know my given name?"

"That was a guess," he answered. "Is it right?"


"Let me tell you," he interrupted. "It's queer, and still it's simple enough. Two months ago I went into Toba Inlet to look at some timber about five miles up the river from the mouth. When I got there I decided to stay awhile. It was less lonesome there than in the racket and hustle of a town where I knew no one and nobody wanted to know me. I made a camp, and in looking over a stretch of timber on a slope that runs south from the river I found a log cabin——"

"In a hollow full of big cedars back of the cliff along the south side of the Big Bend?" the girl cut in eagerly. "A log house with two rooms, where some shingle-bolts had been cut—with a bolt-chute leading downhill?"

"The very same," Hollister continued. "I see you know the place. And in this cabin there was a shelf with a row of books, and each one had written on the flyleaf, 'Doris Cleveland—Her Book.'"

"My poor books," she murmured. "I thought the rats had torn them to bits long ago."

"No. Except for a few nibbles at the binding. Perhaps," Hollister said whimsically, "the rats knew that some day a man would need those books to keep him from going crazy, alone there in those quiet hills. They were good books, and they would give his mind something to do besides brooding over past ills and an empty future."

"They did that for you?" she asked.

"Yes. They were all the company I had for two months. I often wondered who Doris Cleveland was and why she left her books to the rats—and was thankful that she did. So you lived up there?"

"Yes. It was there I had my last look at the sun shining on the hills. I daresay the most vivid pictures I have in my mind are made up of things there. Why, I can see every peak and gorge yet, and the valley below with the river winding through and the beaver meadows in the flats—all those slides and glaciers and waterfalls—cascades like ribbons of silver against green velvet. I loved it all—it was so beautiful."

She spoke a little absently, with the faintest shadow of regret, her voice lingering on the words. And after a momentary silence she went on:

"We lived there nearly a year, my two brothers and I. I know every rock and gully within two miles of that cabin. I helped to build that little house. I used to tramp around in the woods alone. I used to sit and read, and sometimes just dream, under those big cedars on hot summer afternoons. The boys thought they would make a little fortune in that timber. Then one day, when they were felling a tree, a flying limb struck me on the head—and I was blind; in less than two hours of being unconscious I woke up, and I couldn't see anything—like that almost," she snapped her finger. "On top of that my brothers discovered that they had no right to cut timber there. Things were going badly in France, too. So they went overseas. They were both killed in the same action, on the same day. My books were left there because no one had the heart to carry them out. It was all such a muddle. Everything seemed to go wrong at once. And you found them and enjoyed having them to read. Isn't it curious how things that seem so incoherent, so unnecessary, so disconnected, sometimes work out into an orderly sequence, out of which evil comes to some and good to others? If we could only forestall Chance! Blind, blundering, witless Chance!"

Hollister nodded, forgetting that the girl could not see. For a minute they sat silent. He was thinking how strange it was that he should meet this girl whose books he had been poring over all these weeks. She had a mind, he perceived. She could think and express her thoughts in sentences as clean-cut as her face. She made him think, thrust him face to face with an abstraction. Blind, blundering, witless Chance! Was there nothing more than that? What else was there?

"You make me feel ashamed of myself," he said at last. "Your luck has been worse than mine. Your handicap is greater than mine—at least you must feel it so. But you don't complain. You even seem quite philosophic about it. I wish I could cultivate that spirit. What's your secret?"

"Oh, I'm not such a marvel," she said, and the slight smile came back to lurk around the corners of her mouth. "There are times when I rebel—oh, desperately. But I get along very nicely as a general thing. One accepts the inevitable. I comfort myself with the selfish reflection that if I can't see a lot that I would dearly love to see, I am also saved the sight of things that are mean and sordid and disturbing. If I seem cheerful I daresay it's because I'm strong and healthy and have grown used to being blind. I'm not nearly so helpless as I may seem. In familiar places and within certain bounds, I can get about nearly as well as if I could see."

The steamer cleared the Redondas, stood down through Desolation Sound and turned her blunt nose into the lower gulf just as dark came on. Hollister and Doris Cleveland sat in the cabin talking. They went to dinner together, and if there were curious looks bestowed upon them Hollister was too engrossed to care and the girl, of course, could not see those sidelong, unspoken inquiries. After dinner they found chairs in the same deck saloon and continued their conversation until ten o'clock, when drowsiness born of a slow, rolling motion of the vessel drove them to their berths.

The drowsiness abandoned Hollister as soon as he turned in. He lay wakeful, thinking about Doris Cleveland. He envied her courage and fortitude, the calm assurance with which she seemed to face the world which was all about her and yet hidden from her sight. She was really an extraordinary young woman, he decided.

She was traveling alone. For several months she had been living with old friends of the family on Stuart Island, close by the roaring tiderace of the Euclataw Rapids. She was returning there, she told Hollister, after three weeks or so in Vancouver. The steamer would dock about daylight the following morning. When Hollister offered to see her ashore and to her destination, she accepted without any reservations. It comforted Hollister's sadly bruised ego to observe that she even seemed a trifle pleased.

"I have once or twice got a steward to get me ashore and put me in a taxi," she said. "But if you don't mind, Mr. Hollister."

And Hollister most decidedly did not mind. Doris Cleveland had shot like a pleasant burst of colorful light across the grayest period of his existence, and he was loath to let her go.

He dropped off to sleep at last, to dream, strangely enough and with astonishing vividness, of the cabin among the great cedars with the snow banked white outside the door. He saw himself sitting beside the fireplace poring over one of Doris Cleveland's books. And he was no longer lonely, because he was not alone.

He smiled at himself, remembering this fantasy of the subconscious mind, when the steward's rap at the door wakened him half an hour before the steamer docked.


Quartered once more in the city he had abandoned two months earlier, Hollister found himself in the grip of new desires, stirred by new plans, his mind yielding slowly to the conviction that life was less barren than it seemed. Or was that, he asked himself doubtfully, just another illusion which would uphold him for awhile and then perish? Not so many weeks since, a matter of days almost, life, so far as he was concerned, held nothing, promised nothing. All the future years through which he must live because of the virility of his body seemed nothing but a dismal fog in which he must wander without knowing where he went or what lay before him.

Now it seemed that he had mysteriously acquired a starting point and a goal. He was aware of a new impetus. And since life had swept away a great many illusions which he had once cherished as proven reality, he did not shrink from or misunderstand the cause underlying this potent change in his outlook. He pondered on this. He wished to be sure. And he did not have to strain himself intellectually to understand that Doris Cleveland was the outstanding factor in this change.

Each time he met her, he breathed a prayer of thanks for her blindness, which permitted her to accept him as a man instead of shrinking from him as a monster. Just as the man secure in the knowledge that he possesses the comfort and security of a home can endure with fortitude the perils and hardships of a bitter trial, so Hollister could walk the streets of Vancouver now, indifferent to the averted eyes, the quick glance of reluctant pity. He could get through the days without brooding. Loneliness no longer made him shudder with its clammy touch.

For that he could thank Doris Cleveland, and her alone. He saw her nearly every day. She was the straw to which he, drowning, clung with all his might. The most depressing hours that overtook him were those in which he visualized her floating away beyond his reach.

To Hollister, as he saw more of her, she seemed the most remarkable woman he had ever known. Her loss of sight had been more than compensated by an extraordinary acuteness of mental vision. The world about her might now be one of darkness, but she had a precise comprehension of its nature, its manifestations, its complexities. He had always taken blindness as a synonym for helplessness, a matter of uncertain groping, of timidities, of despair. He revised that conclusion sharply in her case. He could not associate the most remote degree of helplessness with Doris Cleveland when they walked, for instance, through Stanley Park from English Bay to Second Beach. That broad path, with the Gulf swell muttering along the bouldery shore on one side and the wind whispering in the lofty branches of tall trees on the other, was a favorite haunt of theirs on crisp March days. The buds of the pussy willow were beginning to burst. Birds twittered in dusky thickets. Even the gulls, wheeling and darting along the shore, had a new note in their raucous crying. None of these first undertones of the spring symphony went unmarked by Doris Cleveland. She could hear and feel. She could respond to subtle, external stimuli. She could interpret her thoughts and feelings with apt phrases, with a whimsical humor,—sometimes with an appealing touch of wistfulness.

At the Beach Avenue entrance to the park she would release herself from the hand by which Hollister guided her through the throngs on the sidewalks or the traffic of the crossings, and along the open way she would keep step with him easily and surely, her cheeks glowing with the brisk movement; and she could tell him with uncanny exactness when they came abreast of the old elk paddock and the bowling greens, or the rock groynes and bathhouse at Second Beach. She knew always when they turned the wide curve farther out, where through a fringe of maple and black alder there opened a clear view of all the Gulf, with steamers trailing their banners of smoke and the white pillar of Point Atkinson lighthouse standing guard at the troubled entrance to Howe Sound.

No, he could not easily fall into the masculine attitude of a protector, of guiding and bending a watchful care upon a helpless bit of desirable femininity that clung to him with confiding trust. Doris Cleveland was too buoyantly healthy to be a clinging vine. She had too hardy an intellectual outlook. Her mind was like her body, vigorous, resilient, unafraid. It was hard sometimes for Hollister to realize fully that to those gray eyes so often turned on him it was always night,—or at best a blurred, unrelieved dusk.

In the old, comfortable days before the war, Hollister, like many other young men, accepted things pretty much as they came without troubling to scrutinize their import too closely. It was easy for him, then, to overlook the faint shadows than ran before coming events. It had been the most natural thing in the world to drift placidly until in more or less surprise he found himself caught fairly in a sweeping current. Some of the most important turns in his life had caught him unprepared for their denouement, left him a trifle dizzy as he found himself committed irrevocably to this or that.

But he had not survived four years of bodily and spiritual disaster without an irreparable destruction of the sanguine, if more or less nebulous assurance that God was in his heaven and all was well with the world. He had been stricken with a wariness concerning life, a reluctant distrust of much that in his old easy-going philosophy seemed solid as the hills. He was disposed to a critical and sometimes pessimistic examination of his own feelings and of other people's actions.

So love for Doris Cleveland did not steal upon him like a thief in the night. From the hour when he put her in the taxi at the dock and went away with her address in his pocket, he was keenly alive to the definite quality of attraction peculiar to her. When he was not thinking of her, he was thinking of himself in relation to her. He found himself involved in the most intimate sort of speculation concerning her. From the beginning he did not close his eyes to a possibility which might become a fact. Six months earlier he would honestly have denied that any woman could linger so tenaciously in his mind, a lovely vision to gladden and disturb him in love's paradoxical way. Yet step by step he watched himself approaching that dubious state, dreading a little the drift toward a definite emotion, yet reluctant to draw back.

When Doris went about with him, frankly finding a pleasure in his company, he said to himself that it was a wholly unwise proceeding to set too great store by her. Chance, he would reflect sadly, had swung them together, and that same blind chance would presently swing them far apart. This daily intimacy of two beings, a little out of it among the medley of other beings so highly engrossed in their own affairs, would presently come to an end. Sitting beside her on a shelving rock in the sun, Hollister would think of that and feel a pang. He would say to himself also, a trifle cynically, that if she could see him as he was, perhaps she would be like the rest: he would never have had the chance to know her, to sit beside her hearing the musical ripple of her voice when she laughed, seeing the sweetness of her face as she turned to him, smiling. He wondered sometimes what she really thought of him, how she pictured him in her mind. She had very clear mental pictures of everything she touched or felt, everything that came within the scope of her understanding,—which covered no narrow field. But Hollister never quite had the courage to ask her to describe what image of him she carried in her mind.

For a month he did very little but go about with Doris, or sit quietly reading a book in his room. March drew to a close. The southern border of Stanley Park which faced the Gulf over English Bay continued to be their haunt on every sunny afternoon, save once or twice when they walked along Marine Drive to where the sands of the Spanish Bank lay bared for a mile offshore at ebb tide.

If it rained, or a damp fog blew in from the sea, Hollister would pick out a motion-picture house that afforded a good orchestra, or get tickets to some available concert, or they would go and have tea at the Granada where there was always music at the tea hour in the afternoon. Doris loved music. Moreover she knew music, which is a thing apart from merely loving melodious sounds. Once, at the place where she was living, the home of a married cousin, Hollister heard her play the piano for the first time. He listened in astonishment, forgetting that a pianist does not need to see the keyboard and that the most intricate movements may be memorized. But he did not visit that house often. The people there looked at him a little askance. They were courteous, but painfully self-conscious in his presence,—and Hollister was still acutely sensitive about his face.

By the time that April Fool's Day was a week old on the calendar, Hollister began to be haunted by a gloomy void which would engulf him soon, for Doris told him one evening that in another week she was going back to the Euclataws. She had already stretched her visit to greater length than she intended. She must go back.

They were sitting on a bench under a great fir that overlooked a deserted playground, emerald green with new grass. They faced a sinking sun, a ball of molten fire on the far crest of Vancouver Island. Behind them the roar of traffic on downtown streets was like the faint murmur of distant surf.

"In a week," Hollister said. If there was an echo of regret in his voice he did not try to hide it. "It has been the best month I have spent for a long, long time."

"It has been a pleasant month," Doris agreed.

They fell silent. Hollister looked away to the west where the deep flame-red of low, straggling clouds shaded off into orange and pale gold that merged by imperceptible tints into the translucent clearness of the upper sky. The red ball of the sun showed only a small segment above the mountains. In ten minutes it would be gone. From the east dusk walked silently down to the sea.

"I shall be sorry when you are gone," he said at last.

"And I shall be sorry to go," she murmured, "but——"

She threw out her hands in a gesture of impotence, of resignation.

"One can't always be on a holiday."

"I wish we could," Hollister muttered. "You and I."

The girl made no answer. And Hollister himself grew dumb in spite of a pressure of words within him, things that tugged at his tongue for utterance. He could scarcely bear to think of Doris Cleveland beyond sound of his voice or reach of his hand. He realized with an overwhelming certainty how badly he needed her, how much he wanted her—not only in ways that were sweet to think of, but as a friendly beacon in the murky, purposeless vista of years that stretched before him. Yes, and before her also. They had not spent all those hours together without talking of themselves. No matter that she was cheerful, that youth gave her courage and a ready smile, there was still a finality about blindness that sometimes frightened her. She, too, was aware—and sometimes afraid—of drab years running out into nothingness.

Hollister sat beside her visualizing interminable to-morrows in which there would be no Doris Cleveland; in which he would go his way vainly seeking the smile on a friendly face, the sound of a voice that thrilled him with its friendly tone.

He took her hand and held it, looking down at the soft white fingers. She made no effort to withdraw it. He looked at her, peering into her face, and there was nothing to guide him. He saw only a curious expectancy and a faint deepening of the color in her cheeks.

"Don't go back to the Euclataws, Doris," he said at last. "I love you. I want you. I need you. Do you feel as if you liked me—enough to take a chance?

"For it is a chance," he finished abruptly. "Life together is always a chance for the man and woman who undertake it. Perhaps I surprise you by breaking out like this. But when I think of us each going separate ways——"

He held her hand tightly imprisoned between his, bending forward to peer closely at her face. He could see nothing of astonishment or surprise. Her lips were parted a little. Her expression, as he looked, grew different, inscrutable, a little absent even, as if she were lost in thought. But there was arising a quiver in the fingers he held which belied the emotionless fixity of her face.

"I wonder if it is such a desperate chance?" she said slowly. "If it is, why do you want to take it?"

"Because the alternative is worse than the most desperate chance I could imagine," he answered. "And because I have a longing to face life with you, and a dread of it alone. You can't see my ugly face which frightens off other people, so it doesn't mean anything to you. But you can hear my voice. You can feel me near you. Does it mean anything to you? Do you wish I could always be near you?"

He drew her up close to him. She permitted it, unresisting, that strange, thoughtful look still on her face.

"Tell me, do you want me to love you—or don't you care?" he demanded.

For a moment Doris made no answer.

"You're a man," she said then, very softly, a little breathlessly. "And I'm a woman. I'm blind—but I'm a woman. I've been wondering how long it would take you to find that out."


Not until Hollister had left Doris at her cousin's home and was walking back downtown did a complete realization of what he had done and pledged himself to do burst upon him. When it did, he pulled up short in his stride, as if he had come physically against some forthright obstruction. For an instant he felt dazed. Then a consuming anger flared in him,—anger against the past by which he was still shackled.

But he refused to be bound by those old chains whose ghostly clanking arose to harass him in this hour when life seemed to be holding out a new promise, when he saw happiness beckoning, when he was dreaming of pleasant things. He leaned over the rail on the Granville Street drawbridge watching a tug pass through, seeing the dusky shape of the small vessel, hearing the ripple of the flood tide against the stone piers, and scarcely conscious of the bridge or the ship or the gray dimness of the sea, so profound was the concentration of his mind on this problem. It did not perplex him; it maddened him. He whispered a defiant protest to himself and walked on. He was able to think more calmly when he reached his room. There were the facts, the simple, undeniable facts, to be faced without shrinking,—and a decision to be made.

For months Hollister, when he thought of the past, thought of it as a slate which had been wiped clean. He was dead, officially dead. His few distant relatives had accepted the official report without question. Myra had accepted it, acted upon it. Outside the British War Office no one knew, no one dreamed, that he was alive. He had served in the Imperials. He recalled the difficulties and delays of getting his identity reestablished in the coldly impersonal, maddeningly deliberate, official departments which dealt with his case. He had succeeded. His back pay had been granted. A gratuity was still forthcoming. But Hollister knew that the record of his case was entangled with miles of red tape. He was dead—killed in action. It would never occur to the British War Office to seek publicity for the fact that he was not dead. There was no machinery for that purpose. Even if there were such machinery, there was no one to pull the levers. Nothing was ever set in motion in the War Office without pulling a diversity of levers. So much for that. Hollister, recalling his experience in London, smiled sardonically at thought of the British War Office voluntarily troubling itself about dead men who came to life. The War Office would not know him. The War Office did not know men. It only knew identification numbers, regiments, ranks, things properly documented, officially assigned. It was disdainful of any casual inquiry; it would shunt such from official to official, from department to department, until the inquirer was worn out, his patience, his fund of postage and his time alike exhausted.

No, the British War Office would neither know nor care nor tell.

Surely the slate was sponged clean. Should he condemn himself and Doris Cleveland to heartache and loneliness because of a technicality? To Hollister it seemed no more than that. Myra had married again. Would she—reckoning the chance that she learned he was alive—rise up to denounce him? Hardly. His own people? They were few and far away. His friends? The war had ripped everything loose, broken the old combinations, scattered the groups. There was, for Hollister, nothing left of the old days. And he himself was dead,—officially dead.

After all, it narrowed to himself and Doris Cleveland and an ethical question.

He did not shut his eyes to the fact that for him this marriage would be bigamy; that their children would be illegitimate in the eyes of the law if legal scrutiny ever laid bare their father's history; nor that by all the accepted dictums of current morality he would be leading an innocent woman into sin. But current morality had ceased to have its old significance for Hollister. He had seen too much of it vaporized so readily in the furnace of the war. Convention had lost any power to dismay him. His world had used him in its hour of need, had flung him into the Pit, and when he crawled out maimed, discouraged, stripped of everything that had made life precious, this world of his fellows shunned him because of what he had suffered in their behalf. So he held himself under no obligation to be guided by their moral dictums. He was critical of accepted standards because he had observed that an act might be within the law and still outrage humanity; it might be legally sanctioned and socially approved and spread intolerable misery in its wake. Contrariwise, he could conceive a thing beyond the law being meritorious in itself. With the Persian tent-maker, Hollister had begun to see that "A hair, perhaps, divides the false and true."

There was no falsity in his love, in his aching desire to lay hold of happiness out of the muddle of his life, to bestow happiness if he could upon a woman who like himself had suffered misfortune. Within him there was the instinct to clutch firmly this chance which lay at hand. For Hollister the question was not, "Is this thing right or wrong in the eyes of the world?" but "Is it right for her and for me?" And always he got the one answer, the answer with which lovers have justified themselves ever since love became something more than the mere breeding instinct of animals.

Hollister could not see himself as a man guilty of moral obliquity if he let the graveyard of the past retain its unseemly corpse without legal exhumation and examination, and the delivering of a formal verdict upon what was already an accomplished fact.

Nevertheless, he forced himself to consider just what it would mean to take that step. Briefly it would be necessary for him to go to London, to secure documentary evidence. Then he must return to Canada, enter suit against Myra, secure service upon her here in British Columbia. There would be a trial and a temporary decree; after the lapse of twelve months a divorce absolute.

He was up against a stone wall. Even if he nerved himself to public rattling of the skeleton in his private life, he did not have the means. That was final. He did not have money for such an undertaking, even if he beggared himself. That was a material factor as inexorable as death. Actual freedom he had in full measure. Legal freedom could only be purchased at a price,—and he did not have the price.

Perhaps that decided Hollister. Perhaps he would have made that decision in any case. He had no friends to be shocked. He had no reputation to be smirched. He was, he had said with a bitter wistfulness, a stray dog. And Doris Cleveland was in very much the same position. Two unfortunates cleaving to each other, moved by a genuine human passion. If they could be happy together, they had a right to be together. Hollister challenged his reason to refute that cry of his heart.

He disposed finally of the last uncertainty,—whether he should tell Doris. And a negative to that rose instantly to his lips. The past was a dead past. Let it remain dead—buried. Its ghost would never rise to trouble them. Of that he was very sure.

Hollister went to bed, but not to sleep. He heard a great clock somewhere in the town strike twelve and then one, while he still lay staring up at the dusky ceiling. But his thoughts had taken a pleasanter road. He had turned over the pages of his life history, scanned them with a gloomy and critical eye, and cast them with decisive finality into the waste basket. He was about to begin a new book, the book of the future. It was pleasant to contemplate what he and Doris Cleveland together would write on those blank pages. To hope much, to be no longer downcast, to be able to look forward with eagerness. There was a glow in that like good wine.

And upon that he slept.

Morning brought him no qualms or indecisions. But it did bring him to a consideration of very practical matters, which yesterday's emotional crisis had overshadowed. That is to say, Hollister began to take stock of the means whereby they two should live. It was not an immediately pressing matter, since he had a few hundred dollars in hand, but he was not short-sighted and he knew it would ultimately become so. Hence, naturally, his mind turned once more to that asset which had been one factor in bringing him back to British Columbia, the timber limit he owned in the Toba Valley.

He began to consider that seriously. Its value had shrunk appreciably under his examination. He had certainly been tricked in its purchase and he did not know if he had any recourse. He rather thought there should be some way of getting money back from people who obtained it under false pretenses. The limit, he was quite sure, contained less than half the timber Lewis and Company had solemnly represented it to carry. He grew uneasy thinking of that. All his eggs were in that wooden basket.

He found himself anxious to know what he could expect, what he could do. There was a considerable amount of good cedar there. It should bring five or six thousand dollars, even if he had to accept the fraud and make the best of it. When he reflected upon what a difference the possession or lack of money might mean to himself and Doris, before long, all his acquired and cultivated knowledge of business affairs began to spur him to some action. As soon as he finished his breakfast he set off for the office of the "Timber Specialist." He already had a plan mapped out. It might work and it might not, but it was worth trying.

As he walked down the street, Hollister felt keenly, for the first time in his thirty-one years of existence, how vastly important mere bread and butter may become. He had always been accustomed to money. Consequently he had very few illusions either about money as such or the various methods of acquiring money. He had undergone too rigorous a business training for that. He knew how easy it was to make money with money—and how difficult, how very nearly impossible it was for the penniless man to secure more than a living by his utmost exertion. If this timber holding should turn out to be worthless, if it should prove unsalable at any price, it would be a question of a job for him, before so very long. With the handicap of his face! With that universal inclination of people to avoid him because they disliked to look on the direct result of settling international difficulties with bayonets and high explosives and poison gas, he would not fare very well in the search for a decent job. Poverty had never seemed to present quite such a sinister face as it did to Hollister when he reached this point in his self-communings.

Mr. Lewis received him with a total lack of the bland dignity Hollister remembered. The man seemed uneasy, distracted. His eyes had a furtive look in them. Hollister, however, had not come there to make a study of Mr. Lewis' physiognomy or manner.

"I went up to Toba Inlet awhile ago and had a look over that timber limit of mine," he began abruptly. "I'd like to see the documents bearing on that, if you don't mind."

Mr. Lewis looked at him uncertainly, but he called a clerk and issued an order. While the clerk was on his mission to the files Lewis put a few questions which Hollister answered without disclosing what he had in mind. It struck him, though, that the tone of Mr. Lewis' inquiry bordered upon the anxious.

Presently the clerk returned with the papers. Hollister took them up. He selected the agreement of sale, a letter or two, the original cruiser's estimate, a series of tax receipts, held them in his hand and looked at Lewis.

"You haven't succeeded in finding a buyer, I suppose?"

"In the winter," Lewis replied, "there is very little stir in timber."

"There is going to be some sort of stir in this timber before long," Hollister said.

The worried expression deepened on Mr. Lewis' face.

"The fact is," Hollister continued evenly, "I made a rough survey of that timber, and found it away off color. You represented it to contain so many million feet. It doesn't. Nowhere near. I appear to have been rather badly stung, and I really don't wonder it hasn't been resold. What do you propose to do about this?"

Mr. Lewis made a gesture of deprecation.

"There must be some mistake, Mr. Hollister."

"No doubt of that," Hollister agreed dryly. "The point is, who shall pay for the mistake?"

Mr. Lewis looked out of the window. He seemed suddenly to be stricken with an attitude of remoteness. It occurred to Hollister that the man was not thinking about the matter at all.

"Well?" he questioned sharply.

The eyes of the specialist in timber turned back to him uneasily.

"Well?" he echoed.

Hollister put the documents in his pocket. He gathered up those on the desk and put them also in his pocket. He was angry because he was baffled. This was a matter of vital importance to him, and this man seemed able to insulate himself against either threat or suggestion.

"My dear sir," Lewis expostulated. Even his protest was half-hearted, lacked honest indignation.

Hollister rose.

"I'm going to keep these," he said irritably. "You don't seem to take much interest in the fact that you have laid yourself open to a charge of fraud, and that I am going to do something about it if you don't."

"Oh, go ahead," Lewis broke out pettishly. "I don't care what you do."

Hollister stared at him in amazement. The man's eyes met his for a moment, then shifted to the opposite wall, became fixed there. He sat half turned in his chair. He seemed to grow intent on something, to become wrapped in some fog of cogitation, through which Hollister and his affairs appeared only as inconsequential phantoms.

In the doorway Hollister looked back over his shoulder. The man sat mute, immobile, staring fixedly at the wall.

Down the street Hollister turned once more to look up at the gilt-lettered windows. Something had happened to Mr. Lewis. Something had jolted the specialist in British Columbia timber and paralyzed his business nerve centers. Some catastrophe had overtaken him, or impended, beside which the ugly matter Hollister laid before him was of no consequence.

But it was of consequence to Hollister, as vital as the breaker of water and handful of ship's biscuits is to castaways in an open boat in mid-ocean. It angered him to feel a matter of such deep concern brushed aside. He walked on down the street, thinking what he should do. Midway of the next block, a firm name, another concern which dealt in timber, rose before his eyes. He entered the office.

"Mr. MacFarlan or Mr. Lee," he said to the desk man.

A short, stout individual came forward, glanced at Hollister's scarred face with that involuntary disapproval which Hollister was accustomed to catch in people's expression before they suppressed it out of pity or courtesy, or a mixture of both.

"I am Mr. MacFarlan."

"I want legal advice on a matter of considerable importance," Hollister came straight to the point. "Can you recommend an able lawyer—one with considerable experience in timber litigation preferred?"

"I can. Malcolm MacFarlan, second floor Sibley Block. If it's legal business relating to timber, he's your man. Not because he happens to be my brother," MacFarlan smiled broadly, "but because he knows his business. Ask any timber concern. They'll tell you."

Hollister thanked him, and retraced his steps to the office building he had just quitted. In an office directly under the Lewis quarters he introduced himself to Malcolm MacFarlan, a bulkier, less elderly duplicate of his brother the timber broker. Hollister stated his case briefly and clearly. He put it in the form of a hypothetical case, naming no names.

MacFarlan listened, asked questions, nodded understanding.

"You could recover on the ground of misrepresentation," he said at last. "The case, as you state it, is clear. It could be interpreted as fraud and hence criminal if collusion between the maker of the false estimate and the vendor could be proven. In any case the vendor could be held accountable for his misrepresentation of value. Your remedy lies in a civil suit—provided an authentic cruise established your estimate of such a small quantity of merchantable timber. I should say you could recover the principal with interest and costs. Always provided the vendor is financially responsible."

"I presume they are. Lewis and Company sold me this timber. Here are the papers. Will you undertake this matter for me?"

MacFarlan jerked his thumb towards the ceiling.

"This Lewis above me?"


Hollister laid the documents before MacFarlan. He ran through them, laid them down and looked reflectively at Hollister.

"I'm afraid," he said slowly, "you are making your move too late."

"Why?" Hollister demanded uneasily.

"Evidently you aren't aware what has happened to Lewis? I take it you haven't been reading the papers?"

"I haven't," Hollister admitted. "What has happened?"

"His concern has gone smash," MacFarlan stated. "I happen to be sure of that, because I'm acting for two creditors. A receiver has been appointed. Lewis himself is in deep. He is at present at large on bail, charged with unlawful conversion of moneys entrusted to his care. You have a case, clear enough, but——" he threw out his hands with a suggestive motion—"they're bankrupt."

"I see," Hollister muttered. "I appear to be out of luck, then."

"Unfortunately, yes," MacFarlan continued. "You could get a judgment against them. But it would be worthless. Simply throwing good money after bad. There will be half a dozen other judgments recorded against them, a dozen other claims put in, before you could get action. Of course, I could proceed on your behalf and let you in for a lot of costs, but I would rather not earn my fees in that manner. I'm satisfied there won't be more than a few cents on the dollar for anybody."

"That seems final enough," Hollister said. "I am obliged to you, Mr. MacFarlan."

He went out again into a street filled with people hurrying about their affairs in the spring sunshine. So much for that, he reflected, not without a touch of contemptuous anger against Lewis. He understood now the man's troubled absorption. With the penitentiary staring him in the face—

At any rate the property was not involved. Whatever its worth, it was his, and the only asset at his command. He would have to make the best of it, dispose of it for what he could get. Meantime, Doris Cleveland began to loom bigger in his mind than this timber limit. He suffered a vast impatience until he should see her again. He had touches, this morning, of incredulous astonishment before the fact that he could love and be loved. He felt once or twice that this promise of happiness would prove an illusion, something he had dreamed, if he did not soon verify it by sight and speech.

He was to call for her at two o'clock. They had planned to take a Fourth Avenue car to the end of the line and walk thence past the Jericho Club grounds and out a driveway that left the houses of the town far behind, a road that went winding along the gentle curve of a shore line where the Gulf swell whispered or thundered, according to the weather.

Doris was a good walker. On the level road she kept step without faltering or effort, holding Hollister's hand, not because she needed it for guidance, but because it was her pleasure.

They came under a high wooded slope.

"Listen to the birds," she said, with a gentle pressure on his fingers. "I can smell the woods and feel the air soft as a caress. I can't see the buds bursting, or the new, pale-green leaves, but I know what it is like. Sometimes I think that beauty is a feeling, instead of a fact. Perhaps if I could see it as well as feel it—still, the birds wouldn't sing more sweetly if I could see them there swaying on the little branches, would they, Bob?"

There was a wistfulness, but only a shadow of regret in her tone. And there were no shadows on the fresh, young face she turned to Hollister. He bent to kiss that sweet mouth, and he was again thankful that she had no sight to be offended by his devastated features. His lips, unsightly as they were, had power to stir her. She blushed and hid her face against his coat.

They found a dry log to sit upon, a great tree trunk cast by a storm above high-water mark. Now and then a motor whirred by, but for the most part the drive lay silent, a winding ribbon of asphalt between the sea and the wooded heights of Point Grey. English Bay sparkled between them and the city. Beyond the purple smoke-haze driven inland by the west wind rose the white crests of the Capilanos, an Alpine background to the seaboard town. Hollister could hear the whine of sawmills, the rumble of trolley cars, the clang of steel in a great shipyard,—and the tide whispering on wet sands at his feet, the birds twittering among the budding alders. And far as his eyes could reach along the coast there lifted enormous, saw-toothed mountains. They stood out against a sapphire sky with extraordinary vividness, with remarkable brilliancy of color, with an austere dignity.

Hollister put his arm around the girl. She nestled close to him. A little sigh escaped her lips.

"What is it, Doris?"

"I was just remembering how I lay awake last night," she said, "thinking, thinking until my brain seemed like some sort of machine that would run on and on grinding out thoughts till I was worn out."

"What about?" he asked.

"About you and myself," she said simply. "About what is ahead of us. I think I was a little bit afraid."

"Of me?"

"Oh, no," she tightened her grip on his hand. "I can't imagine myself being afraid of you. I like you too much. But—but—well, I was thinking of myself, really; of myself in relation to you. I couldn't help seeing myself as a handicap. I could see you beginning to chafe finally under the burden of a blind wife, growing impatient at my helplessness—which you do not yet realize—and in the end—oh, well, one can think all sorts of things in spite of a resolution not to think."

It stung Hollister.

"Good God," he cried, "you don't realize it's only the fact you can't see me that makes it possible. Why, I've clutched at you the way a drowning man clutches at anything. That I should get tired of you, feel you as a burden—it's unthinkable. I'm thankful you're blind. I shall always be glad you can't see. If you could—what sort of picture of me have you in your mind?"

"Perhaps not a very clear one," the girl answered slowly. "But I hear your voice, and it is a pleasant one. I feel your touch, and there is something there that moves me in the oddest way. I know that you are a big man and strong. Of course I don't know whether your eyes are blue or brown, whether your hair is fair or dark—and I don't care. As for your face I can't possibly imagine it as terrible, unless you were angry. What are scars? Nothing, nothing. I can't see them. It wouldn't make any difference if I could."

"It would," he muttered. "I'm afraid it would."

Doris shook her head. She looked up at him, with that peculiarly direct, intent gaze which always gave him the impression that she did see. Her eyes, the soft gray of a summer rain cloud—no one would have guessed them sightless. They seemed to see, to be expressive, to glow and soften.

She lifted a hand to Hollister's face. He did not shrink while those soft fingers went exploring the devastation wrought by the exploding shell. They touched caressingly the scarred and vivid flesh. And they finished with a gentle pat on his cheek and a momentary, kittenish rumpling of his hair.

"I cannot find so very much amiss," she said. "Your nose is a bit awry, and there is a hollow in one cheek. I can feel scars. What does it matter? A man is what he thinks and feels and does. I am the maimed one, really. There is so much I can't do, Bob. You don't realize it yet. And we won't always be living this way, sitting idle on the beach, going to a show, having tea in the Granada. I used to run and swim and climb hills. I could have gone anywhere with you—done anything—been as good a mate as any primitive woman. But my wings are clipped. I can only get about in familiar surroundings. And sometimes it grows intolerable. I rebel. I rave—and wish I were dead. And if I thought I was hampering you, and you were beginning to regret you had married me—why, I couldn't bear it. That's what my brain was buzzing with last night."

"Do any of those things strike you as serious obstacles now—when I have my arms around you?" Hollister demanded.

She shook her head.

"No. Really and truly right now I'm perfectly willing to take any sort of chance on the future—if you're in it," she said thoughtfully. "That's the sort of effect you have on me. I suppose that's natural enough."

"Then we feel precisely the same," Hollister declared. "And you are not to have any more doubts about me. I tell you, Doris, that besides wanting you, I need you. I can be your eyes. And for me, you will be like a compass to a sailor in a fog—something to steer a course by. So let's stop talking about whether we're going to take the plunge. Let's talk about how we're going to live, and where."

A whimsical expression tippled across the girl's face, a mixture of tenderness and mischief.

"I've warned you," she said with mock solemnity. "Your blood be upon your own head."

They both laughed.


"Why not go in there and take that cedar out yourself?" Doris suggested.

They had been talking about that timber limit in the Toba, the possibility of getting a few thousand dollars out of it, and how they could make the money serve them best.

"We could live there. I'd love to live there. I loved that valley. I can see it now, every turn of the river, every canyon, and all the peaks above. It would be like getting back home."

"It is a beautiful place," Hollister agreed. He had a momentary vision of the Toba as he saw it last: a white-floored lane between two great mountain ranges; green, timbered slopes that ran up to immense declivities; glaciers; cold, majestic peaks scarred by winter avalanches. He had come a little under the spell of those rugged solitudes then. He could imagine it transformed by the magic of summer. He could imagine himself living there with this beloved woman, exacting a livelihood from those hushed forests and finding it good.

"I've been wondering about that myself," he said. "There is a lot of good cedar there. That bolt chute your brothers built could be repaired. If they expected to get that stuff out profitably, why shouldn't I? I'll have to look into that."

They were living in a furnished flat. If they had married in what people accustomed to a certain formality of living might call haste they had no thought of repenting at leisure, or otherwise. They were, in fact, quite happy and contented. Marriage had shattered no illusions. If, indeed, they cherished any illusory conceptions of each other, the intimacy of mating had merely served to confirm those illusions, to shape them into realities. They were young enough to be ardent lovers, old enough to know that love was not the culmination, but only an ecstatic phase in the working out of an inexorable natural law.

If Doris was happy, full of high spirits, joyfully abandoned to the fulfilment of her destiny as a woman, Hollister too was happier than he had considered it possible for him ever to be again. But, in addition, he was supremely grateful. Life for him as an individual had seemed to be pretty much a blank wall, a drab, colorless routine of existence; something he could not voluntarily give up, but which gave nothing, promised nothing, save monotony and isolation and, in the end, complete despair. So that his love for this girl, who had given herself to him with the strangely combined passion of a mature woman and the trusting confidence of a child, was touched with gratitude. She had put out her hand and lifted him from the pit. She would always be near him, a prop and a stay. Sometimes it seemed to Hollister a miracle. He would look at his face in the mirror and thank God that she was blind. Doris said that made no difference, but he knew better. It made a difference to eyes that could see, however tolerantly.

In Hollister, also, there revived the natural ambition to get on, to grasp a measure of material security, to make money. There were so many ways in which money was essential, so many desirable things they could secure and enjoy together with money. Making a living came first, but beyond a mere living he began to desire comfort, even luxuries, for himself and his wife. He had made tentative plans. They had discussed ways and means; and the most practical suggestion of all came now from his wife's lips.

Hollister went about town the next few days, diligently seeking information about prices, wages, costs and methods. He had a practical knowledge of finance, and a fair acquaintance with timber operations generally, so that he did not waste his own or other men's time. He met a rebuff or two, but he learned a great deal which he needed to know, and he said to Doris finally:

"I'm going to play your hunch and get that timber out myself. It will pay. In fact, it is the only way I'll ever get back the money I put into that, so I really haven't much choice in the matter."

"Good!" Doris said. "Then we go to the Toba to live. When?"

"Very soon—if we go at all. There doesn't seem to be much chance to sell it, but there is some sort of returned soldiers' cooperative concern working in the Big Bend, and MacFarlan and Lee have had some correspondence with their head man about this limit of mine. He is going to be in town in a day or two. They may buy."

"And if they do?"

"Well, then, we'll see about a place on Valdez Island at the Euclataws, where I can clear up some land and grow things, and fish salmon when they run, as we talked about."

"That would be nice, and I dare say we would get on very well," Doris said. "But I'd rather go to the Toba."

Hollister did not want to go to the Toba. He would go if it were necessary, but when he remembered that fair-haired woman living in the cabin on the river bank, he felt that there was something to be shunned. Myra was like a bad dream too vividly remembered. There was stealing over Hollister a curious sense of something unreal in his first marriage, in the war, even in the strange madness which had briefly afflicted him when he discovered that Myra was there. He could smile at the impossibility of that recurring, but he could not smile at the necessity of living within gunshot of her again. He was not afraid. There was no reason to be afraid. He was officially dead. No sense of sin troubled him. He had put all that behind him. It was simply a distaste for living near a woman he had once loved, with another whom he loved with all the passion he had once lavished on Myra, and something that was truer and tenderer. He wanted to shut the doors on the past forever. That was why he did not wish to go back to the Toba. He only succeeded in clearly defining that feeling when it seemed that he must go—unless this prospective sale went through—because he had to use whatever lever stood nearest his hand. He had a direct responsibility, now, for material success. As the laborer goes to his work, distasteful though it may be, that he may live, that his family may be fed and clothed, so Hollister knew that he would go to Toba Valley and wrest a compensation from that timber with his own hands unless a sale were made.

But it failed to go through. Hollister met his man in MacFarlan's office,—a lean, weather-beaten man of sixty, named Carr. He was frank and friendly, wholly unlike the timber brokers and millmen Hollister had lately encountered.

"The fact is," Carr said after some discussion, "we aren't in the market for timber in the ordinary, speculative sense. I happen to know that particular stand of cedar, or I wouldn't be interested. We're a body of returned men engaged in making homes and laying the foundation for a competence by our joint efforts. You would really lose by selling out to us. We would only buy on stumpage. If you were a broker I would offer you so much, and you could take it or leave it. It would be all one to us. We have a lot of standing timber ourselves. But we're putting in a shingle mill now. The market looks good, and what we need is labor and shingle bolts, not standing timber. I would suggest you go in there with two or three men and get the stuff out yourself. We'll take all the cedar on your limit, in bolts on the river bank at market prices, less cost of towage to Vancouver. You can make money on that, especially if shingles go up."

There seemed a force at work compelling Hollister to this move. He reflected upon it as he walked home. Doris wanted to go; this man Carr encouraged him to go. He would be a fool not to go when opportunity beckoned, yet he hesitated; there was a reluctance in his mind. He was not afraid, and yet he was. Some vague peril seemed to lurk like a misty shadow at his elbow. Nothing that he had done, nothing that he foresaw himself doing, accounted for that, and he ended by calling himself a fool. Of course, he would go. If Myra lived there,—well, no matter. It was nothing to him, nothing to Doris. The past was past; the future theirs for the making. So he went once more up to Toba Inlet, when late April brought spring showers and blossoming shrubs and soft sunny days to all the coast region. He carried with him certain tools for a purpose, axes, cross-cut saws, iron wedges, a froe to flake off uniform slabs of cedar. He sat on the steamer's deck and thought to himself that he was in vastly different case to the last time he had watched those same shores slide by in the same direction. Then he had been in full retreat, withdrawing from a world which for him held nothing of any value. Now it held for him a variety of desirable things, which to have and to hold he need only make effort; and that effort he was eager to put forth, was now indeed putting forth if he did no more than sit on the steamer's deck, watching green shore and landlocked bays fall astern, feeling the steady throb of her engines, hearing the swish and purl of a cleft sea parting at the bow in white foam, rippling away in a churned wake at her stern.

He felt a mild regret that he went alone, and the edge of that was dulled by the sure knowledge that he would not long be alone, only until such time as he could build a cabin and transport supplies up to the flat above the Big Bend, to that level spot where his tent and canoe were still hidden, where he had made his first camp, and near where the bolt chute was designed to spit its freight into the river.

It was curious to Hollister,—the manner in which Doris could see so clearly this valley and river and the slope where his timber stood. She could not only envision the scene of their home and his future operations, but she could discuss these things with practical wisdom. They had talked of living in the old cabin where he had found her shelf of books, but there was a difficulty in that,—of getting up the steep hill, of carrying laboriously up that slope each item of their supplies, their personal belongings, such articles of furniture as they needed; and Doris had suggested that they build their house in the flat and let his men, the bolt cutters, occupy the cabin on the hill.

He had two hired woodsmen with him, tools, food, bedding. When the steamer set them on the float at the head of Toba Inlet, Hollister left the men to bring the goods ashore in a borrowed dugout and himself struck off along a line blazed through the woods which, one of Carr's men informed him, led out near the upper curve of the Big Bend.

A man sometimes learns a great deal in the brief span of a few minutes. When Hollister disembarked he knew the name of one man only in Toba Valley, the directing spirit of the settlement, Sam Carr, whom he had met in MacFarlan's office. But there were half a dozen loggers meeting the weekly steamer. They were loquacious men, without formality in the way of acquaintance. Hollister had more than trail knowledge imparted to him. The name of the man who lived with his wife at the top of the Big Bend was Mr. J. Harrington Bland; the logger said that with a twinkle in his eye, a chuckle as of inner amusement. Hollister understood. The man was a round peg in this region of square holes; otherwise he would have been Jack Bland, or whatever the misplaced initial stood for. They spoke of him further as "the Englishman." There was a lot of other local knowledge bestowed upon Hollister, but "the Englishman" and his wife—who was a "pippin" for looks—were still in the forefront of his mind when the trail led him out on the river bank a few hundred yards from their house. He passed within forty feet of the door. Bland was chopping wood; Myra sat on a log, her tawny hair gleaming in the sun. Bland bestowed upon Hollister only a casual glance, as he strode past, and went on swinging his axe; and Hollister looking impersonally at the woman, observed that she stared with frank curiosity. He remembered that trait of hers. He had often teased her about it in those days when it had been an impossible conception that she could ever regard seriously any man but himself. Men had always been sure of a very complete survey when they came within Myra's range, and men had always fluttered about her like moths drawn to a candle flame. She had that mysterious quality of attracting men, pleasing them—and of making other girls hate her in the same degree. She used to laugh about that.

"I can't help it if I'm popular," she used to say, with a mischievous smile, and Hollister had fondly agreed with that. He remembered that it flattered his vanity to have other men admire his wife. He had been so sure of her affections, her loyalty, but that had passed like melting snow, like dew under the morning sun. A little loneliness, a few months of separation, had done the trick.

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