Vane of the Timberlands

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Vane of The Timberlands

BY HAROLD BINDLOSS

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. A FRIEND IN NEED
II. A BREEZE OF WIND
III. AN AFTERNOON ASHORE
IV. A CHANGE OF ENVIRONMENT
V. THE OLD COUNTRY
VI. UPON THE HEIGHTS
VII. STORM-STAYED
VIII. LUCY VANE
IX. CHISHOLM PROVES AMENABLE
X. WITH THE OTTER HOUNDS
XI. VANE WITHDRAWS
XII. IN VANCOUVER
XIII. A NEW PROJECT
XIV. VANE SAILS NORTH
XV. THE FIRST MISADVENTURE
XVI. THE BUSH
XVII. VANE POSTPONES THE SEARCH
XVIII. JESSY CONFERS A FAVOR
XIX. VANE FORESEES TROUBLE
XX. THE FLOOD
XXI. VANE YIELDS A POINT
XXII. EVELYN GOES FOR A SAIL
XXIII. VANE PROVES OBDURATE
XXIV. JESSY STRIKES
XXV. THE INTERCEPTED LETTER
XXVI. ON THE TRAIL
XXVII. THE END OF THE SEARCH
XXVIII. CARROLL SEEKS HELP
XXIX. JESSY’S CONTRITION
XXX. CONVINCING TESTIMONY
XXXI. VANE IS REINSTATED

VANE OF THE TIMBERLANDS

CHAPTER I

A FRIEND IN NEED

A light breeze, scented with the smell of the firs, was blowing down the
inlet, and the tiny ripples it chased across the water splashed musically
against the bows of the canoe. They met her end-on, sparkling in the warm
sunset light, gurgled about her sides, and trailed away astern in two
divergent lines as the paddles flashed and fell. There was a thud as the
blades struck the water, and the long, light hull forged onward with
slightly lifted, bird’s-head prow, while the two men swung forward for
the next stroke with a rhythmic grace of motion. They knelt, facing
forward, in the bottom of the craft, and, dissimilar as they were in
features and, to some extent, in character, the likeness between them was
stronger than the difference. Both bore the unmistakable stamp of a
wholesome life spent in vigorous labor in the open. Their eyes were clear
and, like those of most bushmen, singularly steady; their skin was clean
and weather-darkened; and they were leanly muscular.

On either side of the lane of green water giant firs, cedars and balsams
crept down the rocky hills to the whitened driftwood fringe. They formed
part of the great coniferous forest which rolls west from the wet Coast
Range of Canada’s Pacific Province and, overleaping the straits, spreads
across the rugged and beautiful wilderness of Vancouver Island. Ahead,
clusters of little frame houses showed up here and there in openings
among the trees, and a small sloop, toward which the canoe was heading,
lay anchored near the wharf.

The men had plied the paddle during most of that day, from inclination
rather than necessity, for they could have hired Siwash Indians to
undertake the labor for them, had they been so minded. They were,
though their appearance did not suggest it, moderately prosperous; but
their prosperity was of recent date; they had been accustomed to doing
everything for themselves, as are most of the men who dwell among the
woods and ranges of British Columbia.

Vane, who knelt nearest the bow, was twenty-seven years of age. Nine of
those years he had spent chopping trees, driving cattle, poling canoes
and assisting in the search for useful minerals among the snow-clad
ranges. He wore a wide, gray felt hat, which had lost its shape from
frequent wettings, an old shirt of the same color, and blue duck
trousers, rent in places; but the light attire revealed a fine muscular
symmetry. He had brown hair and brown eyes; and a certain warmth of
coloring which showed through the deep bronze of his skin hinted at a
sanguine and somewhat impatient temperament. As a matter of fact, the
man was resolute and usually shrewd; but there was a vein of
impulsiveness in him, and, while he possessed considerable powers of
endurance, he was on occasion troubled by a shortness of temper.

His companion, Carroll, had lighter hair and gray eyes, and his
appearance was a little less vigorous and a little more refined; though
he, too, had toiled hard and borne many privations in the wilderness. His
dress resembled Vane’s, but, dilapidated as it was, it suggested a
greater fastidiousness.

The two had located a valuable mineral property some months earlier and,
though this does not invariably follow, had held their own against city
financiers during the negotiations that preceded the floating of a
company to work the mine. That they had succeeded in securing a good deal
of the stock was largely due to Vane’s pertinacity and said something for
his acumen; but both had been trained in a very hard school.

As the wooden houses ahead rose higher and the sloop’s gray hull grew
into sharper shape upon the clear green shining of the brine, Vane broke
into a snatch of song:

“Had I the wings of a dove, I would fly

Just for to-night to the Old Country.”

He stopped and laughed.

“It’s nine years since I’ve seen it, but I can’t get those lines out of
my head. Perhaps it’s because of the girl who sang them. Somehow, I felt
sorry for her. She had remarkably fine eyes.”

“Sea-blue,” suggested his companion. “I don’t grasp the connection
between the last two remarks.”

“Neither do I,” admitted Vane. “I suppose there isn’t one. But they
weren’t sea-blue; unless you mean the depth of indigo when you are out of
soundings. They’re Irish eyes.”

“You’re not Irish. There’s not a trace of the Celt in you, except,
perhaps, your habit of getting indignant with the people who don’t share
your views.”

“No, sir! By birth, I’m North Country—England, I mean. Over there we’re
descendants of the Saxons, Scandinavians, Danes—Teutonic stock at
bottom, anyhow; and we’ve inherited their unromantic virtues. We’re
solid, and cautious, respectable before everything, and smart at getting
hold of anything worth having. As a matter of fact, you Ontario Scotsmen
are mighty like us.”

“You certainly came out well ahead of those city men who put up the
money,” agreed Carroll. “I guess it’s in the blood; though I fancied once
or twice that they would take the mine from you.”

Vane brought his paddle down with a thud.

“Just for to-night to the Old Country,—”

He hummed, and added:

“It sticks to one.”

“What made you leave the Old Country? I don’t think you ever told me.”

Vane laughed.

“That’s a blamed injudicious question to ask anybody, as you ought to
know; but in this particular instance you shall have an answer. There was
a row at home—I was a sentimentalist then, and just eighteen—and as a
result of it I came out to Canada.” His voice changed and grew softer. “I
hadn’t many relatives, and, except one sister, they’re all gone now. That
reminds me—she’s not going to lecture for the county education
authorities any longer.”

The sloop was close ahead, and slackening the paddling they ran
alongside. Vane glanced at his watch when they had climbed on board.

“Supper will be finished at the hotel,” he remarked. “You had better get
the stove lighted. It’s your turn, and that rascally Siwash seems to
have gone off again. If he’s not back when we’re ready, we’ll sail
without him.”

Supper is served at the hotels in the western settlements as soon as work
ceases for the day, and the man who arrives after it is over must wait
until the next day’s breakfast is ready. Carroll, accordingly, prepared
the meal; and when they had finished it they lay on deck smoking with a
content not altogether accounted for by a satisfied appetite. They had
spent several anxious months, during which they had come very near the
end of their slender resources, arranging for the exploitation of the
mine, and now at last the work was over. Vane had that day made his final
plans for the construction of a road and a wharf by which the ore could
be economically shipped for reduction, or, as an alternative to this, for
the erection of a small smelting plant. They had bought the sloop as a
convenient means of conveyance and shelter, as they could live in some
comfort on board; and now they could take their ease for a while, which
was a very unusual thing to both of them.

“I suppose you’re bent on sailing this craft back?” Carroll remarked at
length. “We could hire a couple of Siwash to take her home while we rode
across the island and got the train to Victoria. Besides, there’s that
steamboat coming down the coast to-night.”

“Either way would cost a good deal extra.”

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