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The World is Yours

Chapter Thirteen

page 289

Chapter Thirteen

Weather had long since obliterated into smoky grey that Reward for the apprehension of Ooket which hung on the front wall of the Police shack, and Challis had good reason for not renewing it. This was his game, and he did not intend that any passing prospector should acquire knowledge which would enable him to turn Ooket over direct to the Dawson authorities. Anything that Challis could say after that would probably get him into trouble for not reporting it sooner.

Puzzling it over he decided that he must have more knowledge before he arrested Ooket; and then, arriving in Dawson with both hands full, he would certainly receive what he deserved for his long and patient investigation.' But knowledge was hard to get, and he grew rebellious through these early spring days when wind came like warm laughter and all the naked woods burgeoned suddenly into promise. Then desire for Dorothy tormented him, and at last he decided to bludgeon something out of old Mat Colom.

The world was jocular with birds, delirious with scent. The dogs in the corral were noisy and quarrelsome with the spring-fever. Challis walked smartly over the boardwalks and up the muddy trail to the fox-farm. Along the foreshore of the Indian village launches, canoes and brown dug-outs lay like puppies nuzzling their mother. Everywhere fishdrying scaffoldings were going up, and women smoking caribouskins, and boats pushing out to set nets in the bright river. Among these folk, thought Challis, would certainly be some who had seen Ooket with her ear-rings; and, armed with a little more detail from Colom—such as the name of her Loucheux, for instance—he would presently go down and cross-examine them. Challis still believed himself a match for the Indian mind, and felt very alert and determined as he page 290knocked on the Colom door and was greeted affably by Aggie.

"Come right in, Mr. Challis. My! I'm that glad to see you. I got something so important to say I was thinking of coming around."

Aggie's red mottled face and scanty frizz of hair and spiteful little eyes seemed less repulsive to Challis. Because to him there was only one matter of importance just now he sat down eagerly, thankful that old Mat was in the yards. Now he was going to get it all from this woman and his long winter of discontent was ended.

"Well, that's good hearing," he said, genially. "I'm all attention, Mrs. Colom."

Aggie pulled her chair close, smoothing down her soiled apron with her vast red hands and burst into a long confused story about a prospector who had stayed Inside all the winter.

"… And if he don't live by runnin' a private still for the Indians how do he live, Mr. Challis? Tell me that. These Indians are getting bootleg somewheres, sure as day, and Tommy Tom was that rude to me yesterday you'd never believe it. Mrs. Sheridan says that Burke says that Walls as good as confessed that he… "

"I don't believe for one minute that Walls has a private still," said Challis, sharply. He was bitterly disappointed. This confounded woman would swear away the reputation of a regiment in a week. "Maybe the Indians are celebrating their return with a shot or two of hair-oil or red ink, and there's spirit enough in those to upset any native just out of the woods. But Walls keeps the Ten Commandments in better shape than many people I know, Mrs. Colom, though I won't say he's not occasionally maligned by those who ought to know better."

He realized his mistake before he had finished speaking. He had antagonized this woman and she might have been of use to him. She continued stroking her apron, looking down at her dirty red hands.

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"Some folks," she remarked to them, "thinks they knows that much about everything that they've jest gotta walk out on the railroad-ties a piece an' Parlyment'll send 'em home in a coupe with bouquets."

"I didn't mean…" stammered Challis. "Of course you know much more about the North than I do…."

"I should hope so," said Mrs. Colom. "An' then I wouldn't need to know much."

"I just meant that I had never seen anything to make me suspect… "

"Some folks' horizons is that darned limited they have 'em squinting."

In despair Challis got up to go, but hung in the wind as Colom came in.

"We've been talking about bootleg whiskey, Mat," he said, with an attempt at jocularity. Mrs. Colom said nothing.

"Why-y," said Mat, disinterring numerous unrelated articles from his pockets and laying them along the table with a look of interest as though wondering how they got there; "I don't reckon there's any proper whiskey any more… Gosh! If here ain't my teeth! I was wonderin' where I'd mislaid 'em." He inserted a lower plate with satisfaction. "No. It ain't whiskey like it was when I was at Nome, and old Moll… Aggie, I guess that's your garter, ain't it? I dunno how I got it… That sure was the stuff old Moll had, and we with swallers like Aaron's rod that swalleyed all the other rods…."

"I'm going down to MacDonald's for groceries," said Aggie, rising with a flounce. "And you better not let the double-boiler go dry, Mat, or you'll have no dinner. Good-bye, Mr. Challis."

"Well, well," said old Mat, placidly. He pottered over through the warm brown light to the stove and raised the lid of the boiler. "If Aggie wants to pick on anybuddy 'bout suthin' I guess it's gen'rally me, anyways." He lowered him-page 292self softly into a chair as the outer door slammed and began hunting on the table for his pipe. "Sit down agin, Challis. I ain't seen you up around here this long whiles. How's things movin' in your line, eh?"

Challis was in no mood to waste more time.

"They're not moving. Mat, do you know why young Regard left Knife?"

He watched the old blurred face keenly, but he was disappointed. It showed only amused weariness.

"My, my!" said Mat, filling his pipe. "Aggie asks me that 'bout three times a day. An' I give her the same answer as I give you, sir. I reckon I do… some."

"Then is there any truth in the stories Mrs. Colom spread?"

"S'pose you tell me jest why you've a right to ask these personal questions, eh?" said Mat, equably.

"I've none at present. But… if either of you knows anything incriminating the girl Ooket it might be wise for you to remember that there is such a thing as being found accessory after the fact. Supposing that she's criminal and you know it, that is."

Mat turned his bleared innocent eyes from the bubbling boiler to the young man. He seemed to be comparing them.

"I dunno what I can tell you," he said at last. "Sam Butler he says there's no such source of error as persuit of the absolute truth."

"I'm only wanting what you may know of the ordinary truth, Mat."

"My boy," said Mat, laying a hand earnestly on Challis' knee. "I'm finding every day that I don't know much o' that, neither. The deeper I go inter the Great Blake… "

"Well," said Challis with irritation, "at least you can tell me why Regard left Knife."

"Why sure. He left because I told him to."

"You told him to?"

"Sure I did. He's my boy, ain't he?" Mat got up and went page 293over to inspect the boiler which was dribbling on to the stove. "He got me het up. He got me that het up I could a' broke a pane of glass." He turned with the lid in his hand, speaking plaintively. "When I was a young man I'll say we lived wild. Yes, sir. We certainly did. But I guess that that War made all we did look like a Quaker's Meetin', an' you must know that, bein' there yourself. Kirk, he'd been carryin' on since he come back in a way I didn't like, an' I didn't choose he should marry my old friend's darter. 'If ever she found out she'd kill herself … or you. So you get out of it quick 'fore it's too late,' I told him. An' by'n by he saw that for himself an' he went. So there you have it, an' I dunno what it's got to do wi' you, anyways."

Challis was silent for a minute. It sounded plausible, for the greatest sinners are always hardest on others. Then he hazarded:

"Rather rough on Miss MacDonald to let those stories about her go around, wasn't it?"

"When you say 'let'…" Mat was now prodding into the boiler with a fork, "you're talkin' through your hat. I didn't start 'em, an' I couldn't stop 'em, an' no decent man ever believed 'em, anyways. Say… look here, Challis; wouldn't you think this puddin's come untied or somethin'? It's mighty thin-appearin'."

"I know nothing about puddings," said Challis, curtly.

He went away with a jingle of spurs, and Mat lifted his fat arms with a breath of relief, and then wiped his forehead. "No," he thought. "An' you don't know nothin' 'bout men neither, young feller. Thinkin' I'd give my boy away!" He chuckled. "Guess I've shet his mouth, an' I didn't tell no lies nor nothin'." Then he grew grave. "Don't like him connectin' up Kirk an' that Injun gel, though… my sakes; I guess Aggie won't like the behavin' of this puddin'… "

Challis' mouth was shut, but not his mind. Old Mat's implication had been that Regard was an evil liver, but it page 294could just as easily hold for the other thing, too. Quite conceivably Mat might hold that a murderer was no fit mate for Tamsin; might even threaten to expose Regard if he persisted. "Never know what these fanatics are capable of," thought Challis, comfortably, going in search of Stewart.

He saw much less of Stewart now. So much less that he might have thought Stewart was avoiding him if everyone were not laughing at his preoccupation with his young wife. Or Challis, at any rate, laughed.

"When these old men get it they surely do get it bad," he thought, half-contemptuously, swinging along in the sweet wind to the yard behind the Store where Stewart was making a kitchen-garden. Breaking his back digging in that unfriendly soil and carrying water to grow lettuces and peas for Tamsin. "Better a dinner of herbs where love is," thought Challis, wondering if Tamsin still cared for young Regard. He was not a cruel man. Not even unkindly. But he had his own way to make and he did not see very deep. It seemed to him likely that Stewart would be glad to have Regard out of the way for good and all, seeing that there was always the danger that he might come back. And Stewart's ways of love-making, decided Challis, would never be able to compete with Regard's —who had been the first, anyway. As for a woman's stability in such matters, he felt himself very wise in considering that none could ever be depended on… excepting Dorothy.

It was hot in the sun of the sheltered yard, and Stewart, late come from the cool dark Store, was blinking as he painstakingly drew lines on his little patch and dibbled in potatoes and peas. He straightened his stiff back with an effort, but his gaunt face was extraordinarily enthusiastic as he rubbed the earth from his arms and spoke of Canadian Wonders and Little Giants.

"I never imagined there was so much interest in gardening, but I realize that I'm descended from Adam all rights" he said, smiling. page 295"Being domestic seems to suit you, anyway. Where are your Christian Science books?"

"Gathering dust on a shelf. This is a saner way to work out problems, old chap. Try it."

"I guess it wouldn't help mine any… I've just been sounding old Colom about Regard, Stewart."

Even yet Stewart disliked having to think of Kirk Regard.

"Ah?" he said, non-committally, stooping to mark out another line with pegs and string. His garden was as stiff and precise as himself. He moved like a man who has lost his spring, and Challis thought: "He's afraid of Regard." Aloud he said:

"Well, I believe he knows a sight more than he will let on, and it struck me that if you'd suddenly confront him with what you know we might get at something."

"I'll do no such thing," said Stewart, hotly. Even his ears looked hot under the battered hat.

"Well. I may have to require it of you some day."

"You're not working up the case. That's Orange's job. You are not empowered to require anything."

He turned to sort out some little packets that lay in the wheelbarrow. Challis was angry. It had been an unlucky morning.

"I have the right to require you to make a written declaration that you saw the girl Ooket wearing Olafssen's ear-rings and spoke to her."

"I can't swear that they were Olafssen's ear-rings…."

"Shucks. You know they were. You can describe them, anyway."

"What do you want the written declaration for?"

"Why… it would give me something certain… "

"You'd have to turn it in to Orange right away, you know. It's his case."

Stewart went on sorting seeds. Challis stood, discomfited. Stewart was logically right, as he had a way of being, and

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Challis most certainly did not want to help Orange. He had come to look on this as his own case.

"Anyway," he said at last, "I can ask this of you. According to the terms of the Reward it is your duty to report to the nearest Policeman if you see Ooket anywhere. Indians will be passing up and down daily now. If Ooket or the Loucheux happen to come under your observation you must let me know at once, Stewart."

Stewart looked at the earth on his hands and wished he could cleanse his mind of Kirk Regard's affair as easily as he could clean them. "All right," he said, reluctantly.

"Most of 'em call in to buy something. You'll watch out?" "All right."

After Challis was gone Stewart stood looking round his patch of worked soil. Under the sun-glare it seemed paltry, arid, a foolish thing in the midst of this great wild land so prodigal with its own growth. What he had said long ago to Challis had appeared at the time so small a thing. But who can say what is a small or a large matter until he see the consequences? Stewart did not see them yet, but he was afraid. "If there could be a child… something to make the bond between us certain," he thought, and went to work again until Tamsin called him in to dinner.

Because she was very young and very much alive life was already setting up its old claims with Tamsin. Despite herself Spring ran in her veins as it ran upon the hills and she could not deny it. The hills called and called until one day she slipped out and climbed Tall Thing again, and although the beauty of the world up there almost broke her it began the cure. Here were the flowers, a sweet nun-like sisterhood, ministered to by blue little butterfly acolytes that went busily between frail gold cups of rockcistus in the granite crevices and tall purple-gowned delphiniums waiting among forget-me-nots and bluebells for the chalice. Here great bronze page 297bees tumbled through masses of crystal and lilac and pinky-white, fragile as dreams and fine as spray, yet greeting their lovers with abandonment, loosing their scents on the dreaming air. And over all was a shiver of light and shade, a mystery of fragrance, a very passion of life.

Everywhere was that unmistakable odour of melting snows, warming earth. Tamsin saw across the lower tops a dazzling gleam of a bare coloured ridge where radiance quivered like a new force in nature, of snow-capped hills floating like a fleet of galleons in full sail on the infinite blue seas of sky, and that strange intense half-human life of the hills became real to her again. Something seemed to go by her in the wind; something laughed with the sunlight through a cloud, something stirred with soft running feet in the grasses. A definite Something with a message.

She sat, pushing the heavy hair back from her temples and taking great breaths. She felt as though she had been dead down there in the house, shutting herself deliberately away from all that life still held. And up here had been this great embracing Life all the time, communing serenely with Eternity, waiting to take her back, greeting her tenderly as one greets a strayed child. She looked about her, feeling that she had not seen for a long time. The jack-pine above her was writhen and blackened, but it stood firm. The tough juniper about her feet crept low to resist the storms. But it was fragrant and green. The warm earth beneath her palm had been frozen all the winter. It was supporting young life now…

Silence folded about her, bringing its message of eternity, immortality, of bitter waters and the wine of life; of timeless spirits and of eager bodies so swiftly by Time removed.

Tamsin went down at last, walking blithely, swinging a great bunch of flowers. The twilight seemed to increase her height and splendid outlines until, Stewart thought, she might well have been Guthrun or Thora coming home to the Viking halls of Asgaard.

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Something had happened to her up on the hills. They had become real again, vital again with their urgent strength and meaning. Sometimes she loved them, oftener she fought them for they would not let her be with her sorrow. But she could never forget them or ignore them any more. "The gods are not dead," they told her when she looked through her window at the sunrise. And when storms came down at night and the heavens ran water they thundered: "God is not dead."

Yes; something had happened to her. There was refreshment in being healthily angry again where for long she had felt only a sick indifference. Stewart coming in one day to find her with her hair wild, stamping and scolding at an overturned pot on the floor, did not know that he was witnessing a resurrection. In fact, he was distressed.

"Oh, leave me be, ye loon," cried Tamsin, growing Scotcher, as she always did when moved. "Even a saint'd curse at this. My clean floor! Oot o' my way, mon, till I mop it up."

But as he hurried off she began to laugh. A real laugh such as she had never expected to know again. And after that in some way life was different.

It did not hurt less, she thought. Perhaps it hurt more, now that her senses were quick again. But, just as she had done after Kirk left her, that unquenchable spirit began to build once more, only this time it was not as a girl builds or dreams.

"I can never build on dreams again," she thought, helping Stewart to make up the monthly accounts from the store, walking with him round to play cards at the Sheridans. "I'm a woman now, with a woman's obligations and experiences. I must build on those."

All this which she had chosen for herself was unalterable and she was valiant enough to submit without pitying herself, even thought she could not help her bitter moments.

"I've got to find something to live by," she thought, lying awake through the hot nights long after Stewart was sleeping page 299by her side. Sometimes she raised herself on her elbow, looking down at him in the moonlight. His hair was thin and very grey on the high temples. His lined colourless face had a worn look, older in repose when the keen quiet eyes were shut. His chest and arms had the thick hair of a strong man. And he was a strong man, both physically and mentally. Rab had fought many devils before she knew him. It would be wicked of her to confront him with any more. Nor was there need since Kirk had not come back … never would come now.

A smile flickered on the sleeping face and Tamsin knew that Rab thought of her. She did not hate him as she had done at first. According to his lights he was good to her, even generous. Good and generous as Kirk had never been. She lay with arms behind her head, listening to Rab's quiet breathing and thinking of Kirk. Kirk, that strange nebulous quantity of her childhood, who had condensed for a moment into an elixir so ardent, so magical that the draught she had drunken of him would leave a part of her intoxicated for ever. Then, swift as light, he had dissolved again; vanished to offer that drink at other lips, to smile, half-tender, half-bold, into other eyes. And for Tamsin was left the quiet life of the Kanana and her old man.

But life was not always quiet here. Tommy Tom married a new wife and held a potlatch, which is forbidden by law. But because there were no cells at the Police shack, Challis could only go down and fling in the river such bottles of hootch as he could find while dark eyes watched him immovable out of the shadows. A grizzly came down Big Thing and clawed up a prospector who was brought in, half-dead, for Tamsin to patch as best she could, there being no doctor within a hundred miles since O'Kane was still in Ketchikan. Then a passing surveyor gave Mat the Chaldean Oracles and he babbled of Ynges and 'inefiable at-one-ments' until Aggie threw the book behind the fire.

"And if I could get hold of the fellow what gave it to the page 300old fool he'd go there too," she cried, holding Mat back with one brawny hand and poking the flames with the other. Tamsin, being there, laughed and applauded, but old Mat was helping her more than she knew, all the same. His earnest simplicity, his humbleness was an atmosphere about him now, and one that it did her good to enter.

"That thar Truth sartinly do take a heap o' huntin', dearie," he would say, looking up with mild anxious eyes. "Soon's I think I got salt on its tail off it goes agin. But I'll jump on him around the corner yet."

"Will you know it when you see it," wondered Tamsin.

"Surely. A man don't always reckernize a lie, but he jest couldn't mistake the Truth. The Great Blake says as it don't come by argument. You must feel it. I guess, Tamsin, that when I happen on it I'll feel it all right."

"I don't know. We know so little. We don't even know our own minds … "

She was beginning to realize that to know one's own mind is the rarest attainment of humanity. Shoals of men and women, she thought, drift through life and never bring up against the stream, never find their grip on reality nor sort out those confused bundles of scraps which they cherish as their 'opinions.' Certainly she had not drifted. She had plunged instead: into life, into work, into love, riding the waves with a high heart, tossing the spray of delight from bright confident eyes. And now had come the end of all that with her marriage to Stewart, but she did not know her own mind yet. She only knew that she could not hear Kirk's name without a quiver. And she knew that she must do the best she could for that Self which had been put in her care… she and all the other myriad bewildered women who have to make something out of nothing. Yet she did not know her feeling for Stewart. She respected him. She did not hate him. She could not imagine that she would ever love that grey man.

"If I could hate or despise him it would be easy. I could page 301leave him then," she thought. But it is in that terrible mid-meadow of flowers and thorns that so many women must walk all their lives long.

One day when Stewart had gone out with the new operator to mend a telegraph-wire Tamsin went down to have supper with Miss Tinney. Miss Tinney's mind was a good one to get into when a person was discontented with her own. Full of vague certainties and firm superstitions she barged through the days, keeping her road-house from becoming a rough-house by sheer force of personality and always hoping for some spectacular occurrence. There was a strange soft streak in Miss Tinney. Tamsin had sometimes heard her on the hills of a summer evening, singing love-songs in that cooing voice which went so ill with her big bony body and had fled that she might not be seen. But the old woman's point of view was always vigorous and generally a refreshment to the soul.

She put Tamsin into a big chair with a clean antimacassar and several pillows and pressed food on her energetically.

"I guess you don't eat enough, Tamsin. You're looking a mite peaked these days."

"Spring is often rather trying," said Tamsin, avoiding her eyes. So far as she had ever been mothered Miss Tinney had done it, but she could not bear to be mothered now. To cry out her troubles had never been Tamsin's way, even when they were not so intimate as now.

Miss Tinney bit into a cruller, wiped her lips and said:

"I hope you don't mind me saying it, Tamsin. I mean it modestly, I'm sure. But I do hope you'll soon have a family, dear. That's such a very settlin' and satisfyin' arrangement for a young married woman, I think."

"Unmarried people usually talk like that." Tamsin laughed nervously. "It took a Queen Victoria to preach virtue and virginity. Queen Elizabeth doesn't appear to have said much about either."

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Miss Tinney shot her a quick glance and then looked at the bearskin, dark and dim against the further wall.

"I got a notion Ida must have had a whole heap of families, Tamsin. She's that sympathetic you can't think. Settin' here alone I talk to her no end. You always heard that she was a love-gift, didn't you?"

"Yes." It was part of the curriculum at the road-house for men to chaff Miss Tinney about her unknown lover.

"Well, now, Tamsin. I'm goin' to tell you what I never told no one else, but I have a reason." She stooped close to Tamsin's ear. "She never was."

This was easy to believe, but Tamsin expressed polite surprise. Miss Tinney got up, moving rapidly about the room.

"Tamsin, I'm goin' to tell you somethin'. I told you I had a reason. I guess maybe it's my duty, though I never did like duty more than most folk, an' so I'll yell you. Ida wasn't a love-gift. I took her over as a bad debt. I never had no love-gifts, but I had a husband. Tamsin, I was married to Doc. O'Kane somewheres around forty years ago.

Tamsin leaned back among the cushions and stared at her. Unsatisfied romance had evidently driven Miss Tinney crazy, but she might have made a better story than this. Miss Tinney nodded energetically.

"Yep. I know. Sounds a mite tall, don't it? Maybe you don't believe me, an' I'd scarcely believe myself sometimes if it weren't that I'd had to keep him right along these twelve year an' more. He was a fine-lookin' man forty year ago, Tamsin, with a sort of flavour to him … I dunno. Young Regard has it too, an' them kind can do a whole heap with women. An' I was just turned twenty and kinder pretty, they said. So … we were married, and after a year he ran off an' I hunted along till I found him. I was young then. You don't catch me goin' after men now. No, sir. Well, I trailed him someplace, and I didn't let on for fear he'd keep running. And when I got there he was away and I felt sorter page 303despondent, hankerin' for him. I was lovin' him hard all the time. So the folk I was stayin' with took me along to see a young woman who'd got a new baby. They said it'd cheer me up. Well, I can't exactly say that it did, Tamsin, for that young woman went by his name and her baby was his, too."

Tamsin came across silently and put a hand on Miss Tinney's arm. They stood together, looking at the cloud-shadows slipping down Tall Thing.

"She'd been married to him jest a year, poor thing," said Miss Tinney, very briskly. "And there was the child and mighty peart it was, too. So o' course I couldn't say a word, an' I jest came North, workin' my way right along. At last I settled here at the Store… you'll remember it was from me your father took it over. An' after a bit I had Ida… who was a bad debt off a man I grub-staked an' he couldn't pay up, but she's been worth it. And we got along fine, me an' Ida, till one day he turned up… Julian did."

The big bony body shivered slightly and Tamsin stood helpless.

"And I believed that no one could be worse off than I am," she thought.

"We sure did have a hell of a row," said Miss Tinney, reminiscently. "He wanted to 'resoom marital relations' as he called it, but I wasn't havin' none. How could I, an' him desertin' me near twenty year an' carryin' on the Lord knows how. But… well, I dunno. Once a man's been your husband I guess you feel you got to help him if he needs help. And Julian sure did need it. He was on his uppers an' a cough like the dickens. Yes, sir; he had so. I had to feed an' clothe him from the Store… that was before your father took over. An' I give him money an' told him that if he ever set foot in Knife agin supplies would stop. So he went off an' dug in at Aroya, an' he's always pesterin' me, an' I guess he knows that if he got real sick I'd go right up an' tend him. I s'pose I'm a soft fool, but there's some things a woman can't page 304get away from. And once in a while he goes Outside like he is now, an' I don't miss him, though I must say it costs some."

"He is in Ketchikan, isn't he?" said Tamsin, gently. Her heart was full of pity, but she was wondering why Miss Tinney had considered it her duty to 'loosen up' just now.

"There an' Juneau an' maybe Vancouver. Where he can do most in hellin' around. Now, Tamsin, you'll have to know jest why I had to get this off my chest. Kird Regard is with him. He's with Julian, an' he couldn't be any place worse."

Tamsin shut her eyes. Everything seemed to be slipping away. Miss Tinney put an arm round her and pushed her down into a chair.

"Tamsin," she said, pitifully. "Tamsin, my dear. My dear."

"I'm selfish…" said Tamsin, struggling. "Not thinking only of you—"

"I don't want you to think of me. My, no! I'm capable of thinkin' of myself all I want an' then some. But that's my reason for tellin' you, an' if I've done right I don't know. Kirk's a fine lad; but he's that hot-headed, an' I guess he's got a grudge agin life since you sent him off the way you did … if you did, but I'm not askin', remember. An' I don't want to have Julian muckin'him up the way he is… an'with my money, too. Kirk, he's hittin' the high spots proper. So I hear from the folk I have watchin' Julian an' givin' him money when he has to have it. It's about time them two were out of that, an' I can bring Julian back to-morrow by raisin' my little finger, for he knows when it's wise to come to heel. An' I guess I could make him bring Kirk too if I set my mind to it, for he has a mighty queer power over young men, Julian has. But what I got to know first… how about you, Tamsin?"

Her voice was grave. She seemed no longer the ugly erratic old woman whose doings were fair game for any mirth, but some priestess cognizant of the solemn charges laid upon the human will. "I…?" said Tamsin.

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Her voice failed, and Miss Tinney clucked her tongue.

"Life's a mess. It sure is. Well … I guess you got to see straight, dear, so far as you can. Stewart's your man now, an' how far you an' young Regard cared for each other I don't know an' it's not my business, anyway."

"I oughtn't to care," cried Tamsin, convulsed. "I ought not to."

"And that's no help," said Miss Tinney, gruffly.

She stood, her flat feet rather far apart, staring down. Tamsin was thinner, paler and far less boisterous in these days. She had entered into woman's dominion and found the burden heavy on her young shoulders. Stewart was undoubtedly a good husband: but youth needed youth and there was a beckoning waywardness about that Regard fellow…

"I guess I done wrong to mention it," she thought. "They were made for each other, those two, an' if I bring him back… But I won't have Julian corruptin' him wi' my money any more." Aloud she said:

"I guess I done wrong, Tamsin. Forget it. But I thought you sendin' him off the way you did … "

"I didn't," said Tamsin, very low. She was wrung with a dull anguish. "I never thought he could leave me. We'd been … I never thought anything could part us, and in the morning he was gone."

"Land sakes!" cried Miss Tinney. She sat down, staring at the girl with her hands on her bony knees. Were Aggie Colom's stories true, then? "Tamsin," she said, faintly, "don't you go tellin' me you been a bad girl."

"I feel that I am now… since I married Rab."

Tamsin's voice was muffled in the cushions. Miss Tinney drew a long breath and dashed her hand across her forehead. Life was a mess, sure enough.

"Then why in the nation did you marry him … if there weren't no need?"

"I… I found out that he didn't love me… Kirk didn't.

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Uncle Mat told me. It had been all my fault… and I suppose he thought I went too far, and he… was… disgusted… "

"Lord A'mighty! A man think that way! Tamsin, you're nothin' but a baby yet." She thought, rapidly. "Well, I guess he better not come, anyways. But I'll hike Julian out of that right smart."

"You must get Kirk away too. Miss Tinney, you must. It's all right. It is quite all right. Oh, don't think I'm weak about it. I'm very strong and understanding, really, but… "

"There, there, honey. Have a good cry. It'll do you heaps of good."

She put her arms about the girl, stroking the bright hair. But Tamsin did not cry. She stared straight before her, and there was a long silence. Then she got up, trying to smile.

"I think you are the finest woman I know, Miss Tinney. And I'm the most selfish. And… Doctor O'Kane has always been good to me and perhaps you'll find him grateful some day. And… Kirk and I were friends up at Dawson when we were little, and I've always known that he… felt some things strangely. So … if getting him out of the towns means that he comes back with the Doctor it doesn't matter. We can just be friends again."

"Well, it's for you to say, Tamsin. But can you do that? He's liable to make love to you again, you know. I guess I seen his sort before. They can't live without making love."

"He would not do that to me now," said Tamsin. She pulled on her hat, settling the little curls under it with a quiet dignity that impressed the elder woman. "Good-bye, Miss Tinney, dear. And… thank you very much."

She went out brightly, with a little set smile that Miss Tinney appreciated. Married women both, they were back under the necessary veils again. For pride's sake there must be no more confidences. She watched the tall buoyant figure in blue cotton and broad white hat pass down the street, and page 307clucked her tongue again before she bustled to the kitchen to hurry the Indian maid with the supper.

"Well, now; I'll say in this life one always has to take a chance… and a gun," she thought. "But … I dunno. Make a woman unhappy enough an' she'll do anything."