A MACLEAN’S NOVEL AWARD FLORENCIA BAY
Covered by Robinson with the rifle, hemmed in by Charlie's cousins, sweating in the menace of the hot heach, Pat Grogan faced the strangest and toughest decision of his life
WHAT HAS HAPPENED
The arrival of Saul Finlay, a filthy and lecherous old prospector, sharpened the mounting drama on the west coast beach. Pat Crogan, under orders from Indian Charlie Jack to marry Monica, Charlie’s halfbreed daughter, feeling more foolish than fearful, shouted 'Death before bondage.” Monica had answered, 'Maybe so.”
Saul was spading in the soft earth, deepening
the f_____of the foot-wide stream where it issued
frornRYA W '
C rv I Ait ! to Monica, “You stay here. I want to.alk to him, for a minute ”
«I'll comeA too ”
The, old man’s hair stuck out in a wild untidy
mess under the black hat. A cigarette hung from his wet lips.
“Where did you get the cigarette, Saul?”
“An Indian gave them to me.”
“Did he have glasses?”
“I was in the tent. I think so, Johnnie.”
“Did he tell you to keep away from the end of the beach, Saul?”
“He didn't say anything, Johnnie. I asked him what he was smoking. He threw me a pack of cigarettes. He didn't say anything.”
“Don't go near the end of the beach, Saul.”
“Is there gold down there, Johnnie?”
“There’s no gold, just Indians. You stay away.” “I ni going to put a sluice in here, Johnnie.” “Will you have enough slope?”
“I'll dig enough slope.”
“How will you keep it
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from plugging? You thought about that?” “i’ll shovel it out as it fills, Johnnie.” The old man, Crogan saw. still had enough wit to reach a decision. A sluice could be laid more easily in a trench than on a trestle. “I know where I can find you a sluice box, Saul.”
“I’ve got one, Johnnie.”
“It’s over there. I found some planks.”
The box was made of planed cedar one-by-sixes and not much bigger than an eavestrough. Crogan had to admit it was suitable. Considering the water the old man had. a wider sluice would not have given sufficient depth. “What did you do for nails, Saul?”
“1 looked around.”
“You're quite a beachcomber. I'll help you put it in.” He heard Monica call. He said, “Just a minute, Miss Jack.” She was standing not where he had left her but in front of the tent.
He turned to Saul Finlay to see how he had reacted to the sight of Monica. The old man dug. Nothing at the moment could distract him. He was hot after gold, keyed up, drunk with the idea that he was about to find it. Crogan walked toward the tent and lifted the miniature sluice box. “I won’t be long,” he said to Monica. “I just want to see him wash a shovelful in this thing.”
“My father’s been here. 1 see his tracks. I don't think the dirty old man is going to be on the beach long.”
“Keep away from him. He’s crazy.” Crogan carried the rudimentary sluice box back to the old man. It was a poor contraption, with five or six thin riffles wedged close together at one end, but it would hold water. “Set it up, Saul,” he said.
The old man laid it in the trench and tamped sand against the sides. He pressed two short hoards diagonally into the bed of the stream to funnel the current. The water ran into the box and. because it was confined, increased in speed, but it still would not have moved a pebble the size of a pea. It would move fine sand. “Okay, Saul, throw in a shovelful.”
The old man stood across from Crogan, head down. His body odor was ammoniated, musty. Squatting, he cupped sand in his hands and dropped it
into the sluice. It formed a grey plume in the moving water. Within a minute there remained on the bottom only a crumbling smear of black sand.
“It couldn't be better,” Crogan said. “Put in a shovelful.”
The old man spaded sand from the foot of the cliff and tilted it into the sluice.
Monica shouted, “Mr. Crogan!”
“Just a minute. Miss Jack.”
The grey and white grains were quick to travel. The mound flattened and became visibly darker, showed a constant movement in itself, took the shape of a laurel leaf, dark, glossed, decreasing. Crogan saw several gleams of yellow in the spreading black.
Saul Finlay, an idiotic innocence on his whiskered face, pointed farther down the sluice. “Look, Johnnie!”
There was a sprinkling of gold about the riffles. Some specks were still moving. Crogan concentrated on three larger colors, an inch apart from each other, off by themselves, making a triangle. As he watched, he saw them lazily rise in the water, spin, bump and bounce on the plank and slide like toboggans over the black sand caught in the first riffle. Gold so fine it floats on water. Much is lost in the sluicing.
“It’s gone, Johnnie!” Saul Finlay said. “It’s gone!” Not more than a dozen colors were left. “It’s yellow mica, Johnnie.”
“It’s gold, Saul. You know mica wouldn’t have stayed in the sluice. It’s gold. All you have to do is figure a way to catch it.”
“I’ll tear a piece out of my blanket and put it on the bottom, Johnnie. Maybe that will hold it.”
“I don’t think so, Saul. You’d be better off with a little mercury in the riffles.” But, blanket or mercury, he knew it would be the same—the black sand would put a coating on both, the gold would slide, float, climb, tumble. He wondered how Inkster had worked it. Perhaps with amalgam sheets laid the length of the sluice.
“It’s ten minutes after six, Mr. Crogan!”
“I’m coming. Miss Jack.” He stood up. He said, “I’ll bring you some grub. Saul.”
The old man had retired to a world of his own, bending forward on his knees, his head no more than a foot above the water, his eyes searching for specks of gold.
Monica, when Crogan joined her, said. “He’s dirty. I could smell him from here.”
Dirty he was, dirty and crazy. He had walked a long, long distance from nowhere to get nothing. “He’s one of God’s creatures, Miss Jack.”
“Let’s not talk about him. I’m hungry.”
Crogan did not talk at all. He knew that gold falling down a tin tube into tin boxes could ride black sand as he had seen it ride in Saul Finlay’s sluice, and that displaced water rising from the boxes might have the force to keep fine gold suspended. Black sand was granular, this gold was flat. Its shape could annul what advantage it had in specific gravity. No matter how he set the divider or angled the spout in his own special boxes, colors were still escaping. “Where are you going, Mr. Crogan?” He had passed Inkster’s steps. He was
“You may need a drink, Charlie/’ Crogan paused. “I’m not marrying Monica’’
on the other side of the flume. “I had something on my mind. Miss Jack.” “Me?”
“No. Something of importance.”
“It wasn’t another woman, Mr. Crogan?”
“Nothing as trivial as that, Miss Jack.”
“Then I don’t care what you were thinking about. I'm coming up with you. There’s my father.”
Charlie was sitting on the top step. His eyes were genial behind his glasses, his square off-color teeth exposed in a grin. Crogan suspected that, when he walked past the steps, Monica had made some gesture, given her father some hopeless look he had found amusing. With pink roses behind him, Charlie seemed broader somehow. Crogan said, “Hello, Charlie.”
Monica said, “Parent, has Mamie got the supper ready?”
“You go and help her, Monica.”
“I want to come up.”
“Go and help her.”
“Ah! Mamie, she doesn’t want me. Parent, let me come. I want to see how clean he keeps the shack.” She started talking in Somass.
“You go home,” Crogan said.
“I’m coming up."
“There’s only one chair and I’m giving that to your father.”
“I’ll sit in the door.”
“You go and help Mamie.”
“Parent, make him let me come up.” Charlie said, “Let her come up. Pat.” Crogan climbed the steps and she followed behind him. He said, “How about a drink, Charlie?”
“All right, Pat.”
“Shall we sit out here?” He made the suggestion, not because the shack was dirty but to thwart Monica.
Charlie said, “We’d better go in.” Monica snickered at Crogan. She said, “Yah-hah!”
She had won another skirmish. After he had had a talk with Charlie she would know who was winning the war. She would find herself on the beach not only physically but matrimonially. You could do more prospecting with a mule than with a wife. The last laugh would be an Irish one. He said, “You take the chair, Charlie. We can stand.”
He lost again. “You stand,” she said. “I’ll sit on the cot.”
Crogan took a bottle from under the table and laid out the china cup for Charlie and the top of the Thermos for himself.
Monica said, “You keep your shack dirty.”
Crogan poured the drinks.
She said, “When do 1 get a drink, parent? I’m over twenty-one.”
Charlie scowled. “You’ll drink when your husband says you can have it.”
She looked at Crogan. “When do 1 get a drink?”
He said, and felt much better, “When the cow jumps over the moon.”
"Parent, tell him to sit beside me.” “I’ll stand.”
"Sit down, Pat,” Charlie said.
To show he was not jumping at their orders, Crogan took his time putting water in the drinks. As he sat beside Monica, she said. “Yah-hah!”
“You’d better go and sit on the doorstep,” Crogan said, “and look out for Rise and Shine.”
“That’s all right, Pat,” Charlie said.
“I got somebody watching for the mountic.” He held the cup in the manner that was peculiar to him, with his hands about it. “I’m getting a seiner built in Vancouver, Pat.”
“How would you like to learn how to handle a seiner?”
“Where would I learn to handle a seiner?”
"I have some big Indian friends at Cape Mudge who run seiners. You could work the winter with them.” “Charlie, I'm not going to have anything to do with salt water.”
"Okay, Pat. I’m thinking of putting up a freezing plant, maybe on the reserve. No taxes. You know anything about a freezing plant, Pat?”
“You could find out.”
“Charlie, I'm a prospector.”
“You can go prospecting for a couple of weeks. I hat’s okay. We don’t mind.” There was a sureness about Charlie, and a fellowship that made you hold your thunder. Even if you swore at
him you would do so with respect. Crogan was not obligated to anyone, yet this stupid involvement with Charlie gave him a feeling that for some vague reason he should be grateful to him. Crogan was not looking for a job. He had money in the bank. His share of bumper wartime crops from eight hundred prairie acres, and the extraordinary sale of the farm, arranged by his brother, the dainty judge, to the government for an experimental station had removed him from the necessity of catching or freezing fish for a Siwash. He lived cheaply in the summer, and, as far as that went, if he never scratched a dollar’s worth of gold, he could clothe and feed himself all year on bank interest alone. Charlie was not doing him a favor. Charlie was looking for a favor. Ugly John Jack would want to get married, and so would Tom and Augustine, and by their own tradition they had to suffer in silence until Monica, the oldest, was hitched. Eenie-meanie-minie-moe, select a stranger and let her go. There was no morality in it.
He looked at the floor. He saw Monica’s dangling feet. One of her toenails had traces of red polish. She was no submissive virgin, no innocent factor in her father’s scheme. She knew what was going on. I want a wrist watch. 1 want that thirty-three-year-old prospector on the beach. Crogan said, “How about another drink, Charlie?”
“Just one more, Pat.”
“You know,” Monica said, “you won’t be working in the freezing plant yourself.”
“I know I won’t.”
“We’ll have a bunch of squaws to clean the fish and put it in packages. You’ll have an office in town. My father will sell the fish to you right off the reserve. Then you sell it by the carload. That way he won’t have to pay any taxes.”
"Who thought up this idea about a freezing plant?”
“She’s a smart kid,” Charlie said. Monica jogged Crogan’s elbow. “Do you know what we’ll have on the door of the office?”
“The Crogan-Jack Enterprises, Limited.”
“I doubt it.”
“In gold letters. What do you mean you doubt it?”
“I doubt that part about my name. You’d better call it Charlie Jack and His Tribesmen, Limited, in gold letters.” The situation was deteriorating. There was less reason, less normality, in the conduct of the Jacks than in that of stinking old Saul. They saw him married, the father of children, and a peddler of fish. “Charlie, I want to have a talk with you when you’re alone.”
“Oh sure, we’ll have a talk, Pat.”
She said, “Put your drink in your other hand.”
“Because 1 want to lean against you.” He must have looked at her, for Charlie said. “She’s smart.”
Crogan drank whisky. He could feel her face nuzzling the sleeve of his shirt. “Always laughing,” he said.
“Pat, when she was small, walking but not talking, I knew she was going to be smart. I came into the house one day and sat down at the table and took her on my knee. I had my hat on. She picked up a pair of pliers that was on the table and looked at my hat. I could see her thinking. She took off my hat and then she whammed me. She took my hat off. She thought it out, Pat.” "Pure instinct,” Crogan said.
“And when she started talking, Pat, soft words for everybody. Nice, quiet girl.”
“Sure. Always making people feel good.”
Crogan felt the time was ripe. No more equivocation. He was ready now to scorn the Jacks, put them in their places, bust their bubble. "I want to have a talk with you, Charlie.” “Monica,” Charlie said, “get out." “Don’t be late for supper,” she said. “Monica, we’ll be over in five minutes.”
Charlie would be. After Crogan had said his piece Crogan wouldn't be wanted. From now on if he ate with anyone it would be with stinking Saul. He had to take the old man biscuits and a can of beef. He looked up to see what Monica was doing. She had gone. He saw Charlie put down his cup. “You'd better have another one, Charlie.”
“I’ve had enough, Pat.”
“You’d better have another one. You may need it after you hear what I have to tell you.”
“I'm listening, Pat.”
“Charlie, I’m not getting married to Monica.”
“Maybe after supper we’ll have a drink, Pat. I got a couple of cousins staying in the old homesteader house up top at the end of the trail. They’d like to have a little.”
“Charlie, I’m not getting married to Monica.”
“Good boys, Pat. I got them boats. They work for me.’’
“Did you hear what I said. Charlie?’’ “Oh. sure. I heard you. You're getting married.”
“That's not what I said.”
“I said it. Pat.”
"THE HELL I'M GETTING MARRIED!”
“Don't shout at me. Pat. We’re both old soldiers. 1 don’t like it. About the only man who ever shouted at me was Herbie Hogashima."
"I'm not getting married.”
“Pat. all the Somass know you're getting married, everybody at Ucluelet knows you’re getting married, lots of people in Alberni know you're getting married. You’re getting married. loo late to play games now, Pat.”
"I'm not getting married.”
"Pat. you are going to make Monica look foolish?”
“She's made me look foolish.”
"She wouldn’t do that. Pat. She’s a nice, quiet. Catholic girl. Because you got a brother a judge, you don’t think you’re too good for Monica, Pat?” "What's that got to do with it? She’s a lot better than he is.”
"Pat, you don’t have to get married right away. Take a couple of weeks. I just want to hear you say now you’re going to marry Monica.”
"Charlie, torture me and kill me but you can't push me into marriage.”
"We don’t torture people, Pat. It takes too long."
“I ll walk out of here, Charlie.” "Don't Pat. If you did that I’d have to lean on you. What have you got against Monica?”
“Okay. You’re getting married.”
"You II wait a long time before you hear me say I’m going to marry your daughter. Charlie.”
Charlie's tone was soft, “I’ll wait three days. Pat.”
Crogan stood in the doorway. The sun was above the horizon, the breeze constant, the stalks and leaves of the roses shadowed a fluttering pattern on his shirt. The tide was low. Reefs and snags that had been hidden when he walked the beach with Monica were now exposed, black, eternal, changing water into foam. He had not misunderstood Charlie. There was no bluff in this game of poker. Perhaps Inkster, too. of an evening had stood in the doorway and said. I'll wager he doesn’t know' about I ouella and me. and perhaps Hogashima had said, He’ll do nothing if 1 go back to Ucluelet, or did Hogashima just drown and Inkster of his own volition go away? Crogan asked. “What happened to Inkster. Charlie?”
"I hear he’s dead. Pat.”
"What happened. Charlie?"
“I hear he’s dead. Pat.”
"Did he die on the beach. Charlie?” His skull grotesque and rubbery to the touch, flies in his matted hair, little crabs exploring face and fingers, stone-battered. dead, like the sailors of the barque Florencia, like other intruders before him. "Did he die on the beach, Charlie?”
Beyond the cliff, crows were cawing. Waves, born as ripples off the coast of Japan, assaulting the open shore, breaking. made the noise of summer thunder. All the world was in front of Crogan, only presentiment, silence, finality were in the shack behind him. He said. "What happened to Hogashima. Charlie?” "There w'as an accident, Pat.”
Would someone ever ask, what happened to Pat Crogan? Oh. yes. Pat Crogan. The man who was to marry Monica Jack. That was sad. He got lost.
Yeah, the last Charlie and the boys saw of him he was walking the Lost Shoe to the mountain. He must have had an accident, broken a leg. Bears and cougars, eagles and crows, mink and mar-
ten would have done for the body. He never came back. And all the time the bank would keep paying interest into Crogan’s account, and in seven years his brother, the judge, the dainty buzzard,
Dennis Dalton, would have him declared legally dead.
‘T11 have to take the old man his supper. Charlie.’’
Biscuits and bully beef. Ah. well, a quick transition now was preferable to a lingering on in the future. I am the Life. He who believeth and liveth in Me.
Charlie said, “Keep your grub, Bat. Mamie will make up a lunch for him. The boys can take it, Augustine and Matthew.”
“All right, Charlie. She can give him a better meal than 1 can.”
"You almost out of grub, Pat?”
“Just about it. I'll walk to the store tomorrow and come back with the mail truck.”
“The boys will go for you, Pat.”
“I'll go. Charlie.”
“Pat, they’ll go. They like bumming round Ucluelet. Make out a list.”
“I want to see Rise and Shine, (“barlie.”
“You got business with Rise and Shine?”
“Write it down on a piece of paper.” “I want to have a talk with him.” “Maybe he’s not home. You stay on the beach. Put your business on a piece of paper.”
“Did you say you had cousins in the old house up top?”
“I got two cousins there, Pat, but they got four or five young fellows with them, big bucks.”
“I guess I’ll stay on the beach, Charlie.”
“You stay here, Pat. 1 got all kinds of Indians picking cascara for me in the bush. You tell me what you want at the store.”
“Two pounds of bacon, three loaves of bread, four cans of beans. That
should be enough for three days.” “You’re pigheaded, Pat.”
“I'm pigheaded, Pat.”
“I know that, too, Charlie.” Pigheaded enough to value money like a white man and yet follow the social thinking of a tribe, to conceal determination under kindness, brutality under definite charm. “Okay then, whoever you send to Ucluelet,” Crogan said, “have him get in touch with Rise and Shine to tell him the old man is here, and that he’s crazy and should be locked up. You will send someone in tomorrow, Charlie?”
“I promise, Pat. But you don’t need to get anything at the store. You cat with us.”
‘Tm a confirmed bachelor. I’ll eat here.”
“Three loaves of bread, four cans of beans, two pounds of bacon, that’s not much, (iet all you want. You got credit.”
“Let’s see. Charlie. Tomorrow’s Friday. No bacon. Then Saturday and Sunday. You wouldn’t do a job on me on Sunday, would you, Charlie?”
“God! no, not on Sunday.”
“So that’s four days, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.”
“Pat. Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Three days. That’s lots of time to say you’re going to marry Monica. Just say it. A good man is as good as his word, Pat. You’re a good man. You say it and you can go to Ucluelet, go into Alberni, go and see your brother, I don’t care.”
“Charlie, you’re not ordering me to get married.”
“Okay, Pat. You want it that way, you get it that way. Now it's time to eat.”
“Pat, you come. We have butcher beef. Bring the bottle. Maybe we’ll have a little drink after supper.”
Crogan reviewed the situation. There was no barbed wire behind the beach, and the level land above the cliff was not all muskeg. With biscuits in his pocket he could hide out and in the darkness make for Tofino. They would expect him to head towards Ucluelet. He could show his heels to any Siwash. Even if tribesmen sat all night on Inkster’s steps, he could outwit them by removing the window from the back wall. All that Monica would have of him would be a memory. She could go find a more suitable mate, one with less spirit and more dependence, a nincompoop. Crogan would have supper with the Jacks, and spend the next day separating the black sand he had taken from his boxes, separate again, and put a pound or so of the concentrate in his pocket to have assayed. If the result proved worthwhile, he could have bigger and better boxes built and try the black sand on the Charlottes.
As he walked towards the tents with Charlie, he saw that Tom, Augustine and the silent Matthew were piling driftwood to make a bonfire. Mamie’s small boy was with them. Under the canvas fly the table was set for three. A basin of dirty dishes lay at the side of the stove. Mamie and the boys had eaten. Mamie herself was not in sight. Charlie shouted to the boys in Somass. “They can take some supper to the old man,” he said.
Monica came from her tent. She had changed her dress for an angora sweater and grey slacks, her red shoes for socks and sandals.
A roasting pan, big enough to bathe a baby, containing potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage, hunks of meat, straddled the tin stove.
Charlie said, “You sit on the other side next to Monica.”
“Where’s Mrs. Jack, Charlie?”
“Ah, Pat, she’s hiding. She wouldn't eat with us. She starts sweating when we have company.”
Monica served them. The meat was not boiling beef but steak. “Huh! Mamie.” she said.
Tom. Augustine and Matthew stood by their father. The two older boys were taller than Charlie, their shoulders were as broad. They had his mark on them. They looked intelligent and sound. Crogan said hello. They greeted him quietly, showing their fine teeth. He winked at Matthew and the silent one dissolved in a pool of pre-adolescent anguish. His body twisted, his eyes looked everywhere, his mouth dripped bubbles of saliva.
“Parent,” Monica said, “hurry up and sit down. I’m hungry. The food’s getting cold.”
“Just a minute,” Charlie said. He took an empty lard pail and filled it with stew. He gave it to Augustine, and the brothers started walking.
“Parent,” Monica said, “say grace.”
Charlie sat down.
“Hurry up, parent.”
Charlie looked at Crogan. “You say it. Pat.”
"My Lord Jesus,” Crogan said, "we thank Thee for so many favors, and we would wish to have Thee as our guest at this table tonight. Be with me tomorrow, and on the day after, which is Saturday. I ask in Your Father’s name, and in Your name, and in the name of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
Monica, cutting her meat, said, “That’s a funny one.”
“Ask your father to explain it to you, Miss Jack.”
“Parent, did you ever hear grace said like that?”
Charlie disregarded her. He looked steadily at Crogan. He said. “Pat. why don't you start calling her Monica.”
Mamie’s small boy pulled at Charlie’s coat. Charlie lifted him to the bench and. smearing a slice of bread with gravy, gave it to him. The boy made a mess of it.
“Parent, make him go to Mamie. He’s dirty. He’s putting his hands over the table.”
"He's not doing any harm,” Crogan said.
“Make him go away, parent. He’s had his supper.”
Charlie cuddled the boy and spoke in Somass. He put him on the sand and gave him a little spank. The boy squealed with pleasure and trotted to the first tent, and in the opening Crogan saw Mamie, her arms outstretched, her round face lit by a smile.
“Nice little boy you have, Charlie.” “Hr' ugly,” Monica said. “You wait and see the kids I’m going to have.” “You’d better describe them. I won't be around.”
“Parent, make him stop talking like that.”
"Pat,” Charlie said, “stop it.”
The stew was a good one, although not salted to Crogan’s taste and he would have relished it more if there had been turnips. He did not see salt on the table. The Jacks probably absorbed it through their skins. Charlie had a second helping,
so did Monica. Crogan could not understand why her stomach was flat. Whatever she swallowed must turn to energy, as a drop of water on a hot iron turns to steam. In the animal world her counterpart would be the shrew, the smallest mammal, a pugnacious creature that ate its own weight in insects. They had canned peaches, chocolate biscuits, bananas, and the Jacks drank tea.
“We’ll leave the dishes for Mamie,” Monica said.
Twilight was on them. The brown canvas tents were lumps without color at the foot of the cliff. The waves were phosphorescent and Crogan could see them breaking far beyond his boxes. Two shadowy men were standing where the boys had gathered driftwood for a fire. “Are those your cousins, Charlie?” Charlie, after eating, seemed almost in a dream state. The tip of his cigarette twice glowed against his big face before he answered, “They’re my cousins, Pat.”
“From Clayoquot, Charlie, or are these American cousins from Neah Bay?” "From Pachena, Pat. 1 don’t need my American cousins. I got lots around here.”
“By the way, where’s John?”
“He’ll be in tomorrow. He’s coming from Alberni.”
"With the rifle, Charlie?”
“Fve got the rifle, Pat. We don’t use it much.”
“Just for hunting, I suppose. Just to bring down game that might be running fast enough to get away.”
“That’s right, Pat.”
The whisky bottle, propped in the sand, was beside Crogan. He reached for it, unscrewed the cap, took a long drink. It watered his eyes and warmed his gullet but put no comfort in his heart. He passed the bottle to Charlie.
“Not now, Pat. But I'd like to take some over to my cousins.”
“Go ahead.” There must have been other poor imprisoned souls who had supplied their jailers with drink. Of the six bottles bought in Alberni. four were under the table in Inkster’s shack. A mean small man would not leave them for Charlie and his relations, but who, shuffling off, wanted to be small? La vie ext trop courte pour être petit. Fife is too short for a man to be petty. Let Charlie and the cousins swig. They could not be expected to sit in a circle without whisky and think of a corpse.
Monica said, “Get them to start a fire, parent.”
To Crogan, the breeze from the ocean was cold and charged with loneliness. Charlie and Monica were not his friends. If he couldn’t take the window from the back wall of Inkster’s shack and climb the cliff without sending down pebbles, she would be the death of him. A moon, unsymmetrically round, lifted itself above the bay. It looked like the face of a big fat idiot with jaundice. Cedar smoke was drifting and blue and red, mauve and yeliow flames licked the salt from the wood at the centre of the bonfire. Purgatory could not smell as sweet but it might show similar colors.
“What are you thinking about. Mr. Crogan?”
Of the futility of fate, of the grave's dissolution, of the horror of knowing you. you curiosity, you smart-alec hybrid, you Gila monster. "Well, thanks for everything, Miss Jack.”
"Where are you going?”
"Off to bed.”
“You stay right here.”
“1 have a lot of work to get done tomorrow.”
"You stay right here with me.”
"Not tonight. Miss Jack.”
“Are you a man? Tell me, Mr. Crogan.” “Yes.”
“Then quit dodging me. We're getting married. Now you stay right here. I’ll ¿o for a blanket.”
“What in the world for?”
“Yah! What for! To sit by the fire and do some courting.”
Now, to pay for his supper, he had » expose himself to the temptations of St. Anthony. Thais could have looked like Monica Jack. He heard laughter. Tom, Augustine, Matthew were returnmg from their mission to Saul Finlay. A lamp had been lit in Mamie’s tent and 3he canvas glowed orange like a pumpkin on a porch at Halloween. She would be putting the small boy to bed. Charlie md the cousins were by the fire. Their backs were turned but even at that they boked like the oriental monkeys who *aw no evil, heard no evil, spoke no evil, md they were passing evil in the form of whisky from one to the other.
Here she was. “Yes, Miss Jack?” “Take the blanket and spread it in iront of the log on the other side of ihe fire.”
He said hello to the cousins, men in lheir forties. They were pleasant but »hy and raised their hands to him. They vould be raising their hands to him igain on Saturday, each with a rock, if le didn't take to the bush Friday night. He spread the blanket but not to Monita’s satisfaction. She pushed him away md pulled the four corners, bending from the waist, legs straight, like a dancer or a gymnast of some sort doing calisthenics. “Sit down, Mr. Crogan.” He sprawled on the blanket, his shoulders against the log, his feelings those of a damn fool.
“Push over, you’re taking all the blanket, Mr. Crogan.”
It was not a romantic occasion but an ordeal, and six brown eyes peering at him through smoke and flame did nothing to make it easier. Charlie, flanked by cousins, in a row, light flickering on copper faces, could have been a chief with sachems, planning a nocturnal raid.
“Mr. Crogan, take your arm off the log and put it around me.”
“Now, look here, Miss Jack!”
“Look, the boys will be here in a minute.”
“This is our business, Mr. Crogan, it’s not their business.”
“I don’t care whose business it is. I’m not fooling around in public.”
“Who’s the public? Those men are my cousins. They’re in the family.”
“He won’t put his arm around me.” “Pat,” Charlie said, “you put your arm around.”
He did. There was little harm in it. Whether he succeeded or failed in his dash the next night to the road and to Tofino he would never have to show gallantry to Monica again.
“That’s better, Mr. Crogan. Now I’ve got to put my arm around you.” She pressed against him as if he were a barn door to be closed in a storm, butting her hip against him, her hand sliding everywhere from his armpit to his waist. “I’m not comfortable.”
“How could you be, Miss Jack?” “We’ll do something else. Maybe I should sit in your lap.”
“Miss Jack, if you would stop trying to put your arm around me, and allow me to keep my arm around you, I think you’d be comfortable.”
“So you know how, eh?”
She stopped wriggling and laid her head on his chest. “This is better.”
“Now you stay like that.”
“This is nice, Mr. Crogan.”
“All right. All right.”
“You’ve got a fine chest.”
“Let me point out to you that the bucks around here have broader ones.” “This fits my head. I wouldn't trade it, Mr. Crogan.”
Crogan looked up to consider the stars. He saw six other Si wash eyes. Tom was standing on the log with Augustine and Matthew.
When Monica noticed them, she said, “Get out of here! This is private. Go and sit with the cousins.”
Tom looked at her. He spoke with the wet muffled lisp of Saul Finlay. “There's gold at Boston Bar, Johnnie.”
Crogan said, “I know there’s gold at Boston Bar.”
Tom said. “There’s no gold at Boston Bar, Johnnie.”
“That’s right. There’s no gold at Boston Bar.”
“Sure there’s gold at Boston Bar, Johnnie.”
Monica struggled to get to her feet. Crogan held her. Her stomach against his arm felt as hard as an apple. Shaking, she said to Tom, “I’ll smash you. You’re crazy. You get out of here. This is private business.”
Tom. before leaving, bent down and asked, “What are you smoking, Johnnie?"
“Oh! I’ll remember.” she said, “you coming and poking your nose in here when we got our mind on something else.”
The bottle. Crogan saw. was empty. It lay on its side, the brown glass burnished
by the lire. One of the cousins was chanting a story. The soft voice rippled, rose and fell. He made simple gestures with one hand. Charlie, the cousin and the boys listened, their set postures, serious faces, expressing attention. Monica was caught, too.
The cousin finished.
Monica sighed. “He told it pretty good.”
“What was it?”
“Oh, an old trouble we had with the Sookes. We wiped them all out. Just one woman got away from us. Where were we when we stopped, Mr. Crogan?” “You had your head on my chest.”
She put il back again. “Now what do we do?”
“That’s no good. Are you ticklish, Mr. Crogan?”
“Yes. but I don't want to be tickled, Miss Jack.”
“I’m glad you’re ticklish. My ugly brother’s ticklish.”
The fire was dying. The embers pulsed and twinkled with a thousand lights. “What do we do now, Mr. Crogan?” “Nothing.”
“Do you know any dirty jokes?”
“Do you want to hear a dirty joke?” “No.”
“I know a good one.”
“I don't want to hear it.”
“The French girl at the convent told it to me.”
“Please, Miss Jack.”
“Well, what do we do now? 1 don’t know anything about courting. I have to learn, don’t I?”
"There’s a lot you have to learn.” “Okay. Teach me.”
“Miss Jack, ask your cousin to start singing again.”
"I tell stories better than he does. You should have heard me when 1 told them about Shylock, the Merchant of Venice.
I acted it out. With one hand.”
“What do you know about The Merchant of Venice?”
“We put it on at the convent. The French girl was Antonio, the weak fish who loses all his money.”
“Were you Shylock?”
“He’s got a knife, you know. 1 wanted to be but the sisters said 1 was too small.”
“I’d have made a good Shylock! Up with the doublet, down with the hose! Right on the stage I’d have got my pound of flesh.”
"What part did you have?”
"Ah. 1 was just the fellow who works for Shylock.”
"What was his name again?”
“Gobbo, Launcelot Gobbo, good Launcelot or good Gobbo or good Launcelot Gobbo, use your legs, take the start, run away. His name was Launcelot.”
“He ran away with Shylock’s daughter, didn’t he?”
“No. That was Lorenzo, Mr. Crogan. The one who says the moon shines bright on such a night as this when the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees and they did make no noise, the one who says on such a night stood Dido with a willow in her hand upon the wild sea bank and waft her love to come again to Carthage. You should have heard me tell it to them in Somass, Mr. Crogan. What do we do now?”
Crogan said, "1 think you’ve done enough.”
Of all unlikely people, Matthew, the body-twister, the boy who swooned when he was spoken to. had started chanting. His performance was no good. One note would be soprano and the next a surpris-
ing baritone. The gestures he made did not seem co-ordinated to the story. The men smiled, Monica snickered, but there was positive tenderness in the looks they gave him. Crogan appreciated that the Jacks were a unit, a corporation, a family. Murderers perhaps, but nice. Catholic murderers. Decent solid people.
“He made a mess of that one,” Monica sa id.
“What was he singing about?”
“Oh. some old raid on the Nootkas. We didn’t do so much. We just killed twenty.”
Charlie stood up. He pointed to the empty bottle and Augustine took it and threw it into the sea. A bottle by a camp fire was one thing for Rise and Shine to find, a bottle that might have washed ashore was quite another.
A conference took place between Charlie and the cousins. The voices were kept low. Charlie did most of the talking. From the glances Ciogan got from Tom and Augustine he knew what was being
discussed. The cousins walked away.
Charlie said, “Monica, get up.”
“Parent, 1 want to stay out longer.”
“Get in your tent. Say good night to Pat now, Monica.”
The brothers had disappeared. Crogan helped Monica to her feet and folded the blanket. Charlie stood waiting. Crogan said: “You won’t forget to send someone in to tell the horseman about the old man, Charlie?”
“Pat, right after breakfast Augustine will go.”
Monica said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
In the daytime perhaps, but there would be no sitting by a fire when it was dark. Crogan wouldn’t be around. Yet it had been fun, the smell and warmth of cedar burning, gawky Matthew, the cousin’s voice, Siwash faces, a quiet male dignity about them, the green blanket, and the explosive Monica herself, peculiar and cute. He would long remember Charlie and the boys, and Monica, if he lived. Out of habit, he stamped on what remained of the fire to crush and spread the few live embers. As he walked away, he looked far along the beach, toward Lost Shoe Creek and counted six fires. Two others were beyond it, in the far corner of the bay, and at the end of the army road, and a fire burned between the creek and where he had his boxes, and on the cliff above his boxes, and behind Inkster’s shack a fire was reflecting color on the branches of trees.
Crogan rose at six, or half-past six, his watch was not wound. He lit the stove and went outside. Someone had spent the small hours in Inkster’s privy. A dozen cigarette butts lay around the door. That they had been smoked by a tribesman was evident, the brand was American. Crogan became thoughtful.
He was thoughtful as he ate his breakfast and slipped biscuits into his pocket for the old man. and as he walked to his boxes. What Charlie wants, Charlie gets.
Saul Finlay was not at his sluice. Crogan looked inside the tent. The smell of body dirt was sickening. The old man lay asleep, his head buried in the blanket, his legs exposed. He had not removed his boots. There was nothing else in the tent but the lard pail Charlie had filled with stew. Enough meat and potatoes were left to give the old man a good breakfast.
Crogan kept his biscuits. An opportunity might come to sneak into the bush. This was Friday. Yes, he remembered, the mail truck from Tofino would pass about ten. No good. A man would flounder all day in the muskeg. The better plan would be to work late with his boxes, say to about nine, and take to the bush by twilight, angle inland to hit the trail that went to the old abandoned house with the dead apple trees, and in the dark walk to the road. If Charlie had patrols out, with care they could be circled. To be forced into playing cowboys and Indians, robbers and cops, at Crogan’s age! The thing was stupid, but so was Charlie’s determination to shotgun him into a marriage whose innocent preamble did not justify a shotgun being used. To hell with the Somass. But if he did get out what could he say? Say a principle is a principle, we fight wars for freedom, no one can tell me what to do? And the storekeeper and Rise and Shine, people like that, what would they say? You ran away from Monica Jack! What could he say, to hell with Monica Jack? The damn thing was stupid. Run away? A man ran only from temptation. He stood to die a martyr for what he knew was right. Here lies Pighead. Patrick Aloysius Crogan. who so valued his convictions as to choose a shameful death before the joys of holy matrimony. There was something wrong with it somewhere. Surely to God, a man could refuse domination without being mad : to look
He came to his boxes. Three large Indians were sitting on the cliff above, their feet over the edge. Crogan looked to see if his axe was still wrapped in the tarpaulin. He would keep it handy. I hen he said hello.
They raised their hands and showed their teeth and one of them said. "Good morning, cousin.”
Cousin. He wouldn’t be so familiar when he had an axe handle sticking out of his head. Crogan asked, “What are you doing up there?”
"We’re picking cascara, cousin.”
“Yeah. Are you waiting for the bushes to grow around you?”
“The women are picking it, cousin.’
“And what are you doing? Sitting with the baby?”
“Cousin, they've got the babies with them.”
“Well,” Crogan said, “don’t get sunburned.” He would not be able to get off the beach by the same route he had come to it. He looked toward the army road. The distance was too long to see people but he did see a tent. And he saw a wisp of smoke in the far corner of the bay. He had never walked that far but he remembered that his map showed a foot
“Stop.” Robinson’s hooded eyes regarded Crogan coldly. “The gun’s cocked”
trail leading to some other beach. Charlie was quite a little organizer. He had stationed a cohort, too, between the army road and Grogan’s tin boxes: on the near side of Lost Shoe Creek. Crogan saw five or six men.
He thought he might as well look behind him. Robinson, with Charlie’s rifle, was fifty feel away, his back against a log.
T he little Indian, pants tucked in highheeled half-boots, black sateen shirt, green scarf wrapped tightly around his neck, his lantern face shaded by his rancher’s hat, looked unrelated to the background. Crogan could see the glassy stare in the hooded eyes and the brand mark on the cheek.
Crogan walked toward him.
The Chilcotin watched him and said, languidly, when Crogan had covered half the ground, “Stop.”
Crogan did, but only for a moment. “The gun’s cocked. Crogan.”
Crogan stopped. He said. “I thought 1 once heard Charlie tell you to treat me like one of the family.”
“He didn’t say anything about letting you have his rifle.”
“I’m not asking for it."
“And you’re not grabbing.”
“Suppose 1 do start walking?”
The hoods lifted on the eyes.
“You know,” Crogan said. “Monica wouldn’t like you to spoil her wedding.” “I wouldn’t mind.”
Crogan had not thought to snatch the rifle, but the wish was with him now. It would have been a great simplifier, his passport to Ucluelet. He sat down. He knew the little man was dangerous. He said, “When did you get here?”
“Late last night. I came in with John.” “Charlie sent for you?”
Robinson had not changed position or moved a finger since Crogan had turned to catch sight of him. “Charlie said he might have a little job for me to do.” “What kind of a job?”
The black eyes widened. “Hunting.” “What?”
“Well, go and hunt.”
“You’re hunting like those mugs on the cliff are picking cascara.”
“There’s no hurry. 1 like hunting, and there’s only one seal on the beach.” “Isn’t that seal to be left alone until sometime tomorrow?”
“That’s right. You can only shoot him today if he starts to run.”
“Seals don’t run.”
Robinson gave him a casual examination. “T hat’s right. They flop. Even after you hit them they flop."
T he plan Crogan had of working until it was almost dark and then slipping into the bush would have to be revised. He couldn’t slip faster than a bullet could zing. He said. “What time is it?” Not that he cared, but he wanted to see Robinson move muscles other than those that controlled his eyes and his mouth, and to see, too. if he had the old-fashioned gold watch.
The Chilcotin took his hand off the butt of the rifle, pulled at the leather thong looped over his belt, and the watch, the same massive piece Crogan had seen in Alberni, came out of his pocket. "Live after eight.” he said.
“Monica,” Crogan said, “tells me Inkster had a watch like that.”
Robinson put the watch back. His unconcern was pointed and insulting.
Crogan became personal. He asked, “Who branded you? Who put that X between bars on your cheek?”
“I’m glad you asked me, Crogan. There’s a lesson in it for you. I got it for not minding my own business.”
So much for the watch.
“I’ve got work to do,” Crogan said. As he walked away he felt the flesh crawling on the back of his neck. Robinson might want charm but with a rifle his personality was effective.
Crogan emptied his boxes. If he did get out. lie would take a sample of Florencia pay dirt with him. Looking over Robinson’s head, he saw Saul Finlay. The old man was standing outside the tent, eating cold stew. Crogan could see the movement of the hand as it delved into the lard pail for meat or a greasy potato. He wondered if Saul would have to be fed again before Rise and Shine picked him up. Charlie had given his word to send for the horseman. What Charlie said he would do got done. That was the trouble.
Only a single Indian was sitting on the edge of the cliff. Crogan supposed the others were lying down, tired out by the idea of their wives picking cascara. Charlie would have others posted inland. These detachments on the beach would be his shock troops. He might have called in not only his cousins but his tribe. Perhaps nowhere on the ocean was there a Somass fishboat. And what would Charlie do if he got away? Would Charlie be mean about it and enlist the service of the Brotherhood, so that no matter what part of the province Crogan went to there would be a Shuswap, a Tlingit, a Chilcotin, Haida, Chehalis, to pinpoint him, and Robinson would come slithering over a warm trail like a snake? It would be tough if, having avoided marriage, be had to renounce the world after all and knock on the door of the monastery at Ladner or at Mission.
He filled his boxes with water and shoveled sand into the hopper. It was not as black as it could have been. He ran a few grains through his fingers. There was gold in it somewhere, and it would show after passing through the machine a couple of times. He doubted if the black sand would give a dollar to the ton. Seventeen point six ounces of gold and one point one ounce of platinum. The words would have looked bet-
ter in a company prospectus than in a government report. Something was wrong. Somebody had made a fool of somebody. Still, Crogan knew that with bigger boxes, bigger hoppers, he could have taken a living from the beach.
He stood on a log to survey the situation. There was no smoke in the bay's far corner. There was smoke by the tent at the end of the army road. He saw only one Indian between himself and Lost Shoe Creek. The others would be sleeping or picking their noses. Above him, a fiat-faced cousin sat on the cliff. To the rear, Robinson, hat low on his forehead, eyes hooded, held the rifle on his lap. He was deadly. And walking up the beach was the cause of it all. Monica Jack. Ugly John was with her. They passed Saul Finlay. Crogan saw the old man standing by his sluice, looking at them.
Robinson said. “You look swell, baby.” That was his opinion. Crogan wouldn’t have said it. He had seen her the same way before, blue denim pants and. pretty tight, a shirt that probably belonged to Matthew, hair down and bumping. She should borrow his shovel and bucket and go and dig clams.
She said, “What are you doing with the rifle, Robinson?”
“I’m after a seal, baby.”
“You couldn’t hit a seal. Robinson.”
“I bet I could, baby.”
“Have you got any new tricks, Robinson?”
“Let’s see. 1 showed you that eyepoking business, didn’t I, baby?”
"I know that.”
“I got a new one, but I can’t show it to you, baby. You do it on a man. But you can sure make him talk.”
Every big Jack loved a small Jack. Ugly John was regarding Monica as Charlie would, lie beamed.
The three clifT-dwellers were again sitting in a row. Ugly John talked to them in Somass. He had a quality about him that made his face bearable. If he ever fattened he would look like a goodnatured Japanese wrestler. The discussion ended by him pointing to Lost Shoe Creek and by them looking that way and hooting with laughter.
“How are you, Mr. Crogan?”
“Are those goons up there cousins of yours?”
“They're my cousins, Mr. Crogan. They fish out of Bamiield.”
“Why all the belly laughter, John?” “We were talking about the Eagles.” “What eagles?”
“Pachena Eagle, Eddie Eagle and the other Eagles. They’re not right in the head, those boys. Somebody told them about sun bathing and they’re lying around with their clothes off.”
Damn Charlie! This was his method of keeping chance visitors from walking the beach. He had put a wall of brown virility between the creek and Crogan’s boxes.
“I guess I’d better go and see them, Mr. Crogan.”
“What do they do when the sun goes down. John?”
“They camp out. They won't go away. Not until tomorrow.”
“I suppose you’ll be here, too, John.” “I have to be.”
“Well, John, remember, let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” “Good-by now. Mr. Crogan.”
Monica and Robinson were talking. The subject would be thuggery. Old Saul was this side of his tent. He might be coming for a biscuit or to complain that he was unable to trap Florencia gold. Crogan sat down and picked up the Voyage of the Beagle. It would not matter if he finished it or not. The pages were all the same. There was no need to wonder what was happening. He heard Monica say, “1 got to go and talk to my sweetheart now, Robinson.”
Let her come. She would find the atmosphere chilly. He was not compelled to thank her for putting a noose around his neck.
“Hello. Mr. Crogan ... I said hello, Mr. Crogan.”
“You put down that book, Mr. Crogan.”
Another order. So this was the face that anchored a thousand fishboats while a thousand cousins prepared to take part in a lynching. “What's on your mind, Miss Jack?”
“Ten o’clock, Mr. Crogan. Time for coffee. Where’s your Thermos?”
“I didn't bring it.”
“You should have brought it. What have you got to eat?”
“For the love of Mike, Miss Jack! Look in my coat over there. You’ll find a biscuit.”
“One of those hardtack things?” “Yes.”
“I guess I might as well nibble off a corner.”
She should nibble and break a tooth. He turned back to Darwin.
“Put down that book, Mr. Crogan.” He was not interested in the book, but holding it should have shown he was not inclined to give her attention. “Miss Jack, suppose you just eat your biscuit.” “1 want to talk to you.”
“What do you think of love, Mr. Crogan. the man-woman kind?”
“Miss Jack, at ten o’clock in the morning it’s for the birds. Now I have a question for you. Did Augustine go to Uclueiet?”
“He went. He’s to tell Rise and Shine we’ll have the old man on the army road at six o’clock.”
Crogan saw Charlie’s fine Siwash hand in the selection of the place and the timing. The mountie would meet only Indians, and if he thought of Crogan at all, it would be to assume he was miles down the beach and eating his supper.
Robinson still sat the same, back to a log, rifle held across his stomach. Some
distance behind him, Saul Finlay was standing, nodding his head and looking at Monica. The three Indians, brown shirt, blue shirt, blue shirt, dangled their boots over the edge of the cliff.
“Don’t you speak to your cousins, Miss Jack?”
“I waved my hand.”
“Climb up. They may have something to eat.”
“I don’t think so.”
“They could be sitting in front of a tub of oolichan oil.”
“I'll wait for the women. I want to talk to you.”
“What doing? Reading a book?” Crogan rose and put his arm in the clouded water of the hopper to determine how much sand was in it. He noticed Ugly John was returning from his mission to the naked Eagles. The three elevated cousins watched Monica gnaw the biscuit. They would wait a long time for Crogan to throw them one. He looked at her. She was down to the last third. It was beyond him how she could swallow desiccated starch without relieving her mouth with water. Saul Finlay had come close to Robinson. The old man was not walking. He came forward with little skips, little hops, little hesitations. “Mr. Crogan?”
“I want to know what you’re going to do about it.”
“About what, Miss Jack?”
Saul Finlay had Crogan’s attention, and that of the three Indians on the cliff.
“What are you going to do about me, Mr. Crogan?”
“You’ve been making violent love to me all summer.”
“You’re a little liar.”
“I’ve been periodically abused.”
“My dear Miss Jack!”
If Saul had had only half his wits, Crogan would have made some gesture, risked shouting, to have him fall on the little Chilcotin and grab the rifle. Crogan could have been there in seconds.
One of the Indians yelled to Robinson. His reaction was immediate and clever. He threw his body sideways, rolled and stood up, the stock of the rifle against his waist.
The old man froze. His arm was at an awkward angle and he left it there. The ragged sleeve of his shirt fluttered in the wind.
The old man said, “1 didn’t see you, Johnnie.”
Robinson tucked the rifle under his elbow. Even Crogan could feel the contempt the little Indian had in his eyes as he took the old man’s measure.
Saul Finlay said, “I want to talk to the man, Johnnie.”
Monica said, “We don't want him, Mr. Crogan.”
Saul started to walk backward as he would from a bear with cubs. He said, “I just wanted to talk to the man, Johnnie.”
“I don’t like him,” Monica said. “Send him away. He gives me a feeling.”
The old man had become peevish. He
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glared at Robinson and showed his empty upper gum in a snarl. He took the posture of a small boy looking for a fight. Robinson jumped over the log. The old man, as he turned to run, tripped himself and fell. Robinson grinned at the three Indians. He said to Monica, “He'd be easy, baby.”
The sand had run through the hopper. Crogan took the cover off the box.
He saw a powdering of gold in the smaller compartment, a suggestion of yellow’ on the black sand. Forty to fifty thousand colors to the ounce. That re-
port, too, had been in error. This would run ninety to a hundred thousand the ounce.
Saul Finlay had moved. He was close to the shore, walking on the shingle, coming toward the boxes. Robinson sat against the Jog, his hands loose on his knees. His hat with the flattened crown, the green scarf, the boots looked theatrical. Ugly John was still far away. The trinity of cousins, doing nothing, saw all. Crogan wondered if Charlie had tribesmen posted on the other side of the family camp, in the corner, where the sand
ended and the rocky shore began.
“Talk to me. I’ve got nothing to do, Mr. Crogan.”
She should put down what was left of the biscuit and dance like Salome. That now-dead nubile body had had a temperament the same. Perhaps brats, whether Palestinian or Welsh-Somass, looked the same. Their mothers, Herodias and Louella, under the skin had been the same.
For Charlie had apprehended Crogan, knowing him to be a just and holy man, and kept him, and said to the damsel, ask of me what thou wilt and I will give it thee. She asked, give me Crogan’s hand or give me Crogan's head. Charlie was sad but he sent for Robinson and commanded that Crogan’s head should be brought in a dish.
“Do you want to talk about love, Mr. Crogan?”
“You don't know what love is.”
“You tell me.”
“I’ll give you an example. A man doesn’t like his neighbor but he has to go fishing. His wife carries on the fight till lie gets back. They help each other. That’s love.”
Saul Finlay was with them. He stood by Crogan's boxes, bare upper gum exposed in a wet pink smile, a dazzle of complete lunacy on his whiskered face. He tainted the air. Monica moved away.
Crogan was affected by Saul's appearance. The mental wound was as obvious as a running sore. He said. “I'll give him a biscuit and send him back.”
Crogan’s coat was on the sand. She bent to take a biscuit from the pocket.
Saul Finlay put his hands on her.
She twisted and crowded against him, using her ten nails as if they were knives. She thrust and dug at his face as a weasel would jump at the neck of a tom turkey. Leaning back to protect his eyes, the old man fell. She straddled him, one hand working on his cheek and nose, the other at her side feeling for a rock. Crogan came to life. She selected one, weighed it, deliberately threw it away and picked up another. Her arm was over her head and making a downward circle when Crogan sent her sprawling with his shoulder.
An explosion of movement was about him. An avalanche of stones, pebbles and cousins came tumbling down the cliff. Crogan swung a wild one at Robinson’s head and missed by inches as the little Indian IJew in to give Finlay the butt of the rifle. Monica was looking for a suitable rock. Robinson collided with a cousin over the form of Saul Finlay and was bounced to the sand. Crogan jump-
ed with both feet out to knock him loose from the rifle, and was hugged by a cousin in midair. They fell on one of Crogan's boxes. Crogan crawled to his tarpaulin, and when he stood he had the axe in his hand. He said to Monica, “Now, you, you break it up. You've done enough damage.” He waved the axe at Robinson and said, “Come near the old man and I’ll let you have it.” He saw the cousins would give no trouble. They were not excited.
He watched Robinson. The Chilcotin surprised him. The brown branded face was composed, the black eyes looking at Saul Finlay with satirical contentment, with the disciplined greed a cat would give a crippled mouse. When he caught Crogan’s glance, he patted the stock of the rifle.
The cousins examined Finlay and, unless Crogan was mistaken, congratulated Monica.
He broke into the Somass talk. “You were going to kill him,” he said.
Ugly John arrived. He ignored Crogan and the little Indian and Saul Finlay, held up his hand to silence a cousin, and listened only to Monica. A touch of his father’s authority was developing in John. He sent a cousin back to the cliff to dangle his feet. He sent another jogging down the beach to Charlie. He gave a cigarette to the third.
Robinson crossed to John and asked, “Is this a business for the family to talk over?”
Robinson said, “That’s what I thought. I started to get into it but I got out.” He did not say a cousin had pushed him out a second before the butt of his rifle could fall on Finlay’s head.
The cousin standing with John showed by his manner that Robinson, although he might be a confidant to Charlie, had not been accepted by the tribe. He would be strange to them, a foreigner, with his lantern face and his rangeland bearing and his inability to speak the Somass.
Crogan put down the axe. It might be a comfort the next day but he had no need for it now. He stood by Saul Finlay. Barbed wire could not have done more evil to the old man’s face. He might be thinking of gold. He sat on his heels, idly cupping beach sand in his hands and letting it fall. Blood still dribbled, ran toward the chin, superimposed a red goatee on his whiskers. The nicks, grooves, scuffed areas Monica had given
him were sand-coated. Crogan had neither cloth nor towel but water was in the bucket and he told Saul to lie down. “What for. Johnnie?”
"To wash your face. Saul.”
“I never have to wash my face, Johnnie.”
“Let me wash it. We're going to have company, a lot of company.”
“Where's the girl that was around here, Johnnie?”
“Saul, how are things at Boston Bar?” “There’s gold there. Johnnie.”
Crogan sloshed water on the old man's face. He lifted the crusted brim of the hat to do a more thorough job. Heavily falls the rain on a hat I stole from a scarecrow. The man who said that had not walked the fogged depth of Saul Linlay's misery.
“What are you smoking, Johnnie? I can't find my cigarettes.”
“I'll get you one. Saul.” He went to John and said. “He wants a cigarette.” Robinson withdrew, not out of fear but out of strategy, to keep Crogan away from the rifle. John gave him a cigarette. Monica said, "I have to go. Everywhere that man touched me, I stink. Do you want me to come again this afternoon, Mr. Crogan?”
“I'm not talking to you,” he said. "John, he won't talk to me.”
John smiled, and nodded at Crogan to show they both knew she had to be humored. “Talk to her. Mr. Crogan.” Crogan said. "Good-by. Miss Jack. "
He gave Saul the cigarette. The old man was playing with sand. Crogan asked, “Do you want a biscuit, Saul?”
“I had a good breakfast. Johnnie. I had meat.”
“On Lriday? You must be a pagan. Saul.”
“Where’s the girl that was around here?”
That trim female monster! Down the beach, walking with head up and hair swinging, as if she owned every pebble. "There's gold at Boston Bar. Saul.” “There's no gold at Boston Bar, Johnnie.”
Crogan decided it was twelve o'clock. His appetite had been dulled, not by the fetidness of Linlay but by the spores of apprehension and disaster that were falling through the air and settling on him. A stage was being readied, and he knew it. Ugly John, the cousin beside him. the cousin on the cliff were players waiting the prompter’s knock. Robinson might be a player or he might be a stagehand. Today's play would be a tragedy. Tomorrow’s play would be a tragedy.
Crogan looked at the box he and the cousin had fallen against. The solder was pushed from a seam. It w;as useless. He looked at the other box. If Boston Bar could take Saul Linlay’s mind off Monica. black sand with a scattering of flicks might do the same for him. Brat. The sand had dried. He lifted a little and poured it back. Ah. God! Saul Linlay was letting sand fall. too. Were they both obsessed? Was there a sickness on them in their search for gold that made them do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way?
The cousin on the cliff shouted to the others. They turned to look south along the beach, past Linlay’s tent, toward Inkster's shack, which for another night would still be Crogan’s, his bower of roses. Robinson never looked. He sat by himself in his old position, against the log, hands on knees, rifle on stomach, eyes hooded.
Crogan could see a parade of at least a dozen men. They stopped when they met Monica. They engulfed her, then after a moment left her behind, a blob of a figurine in a white sweater.
Saul’s world was still his own. He cupped and tilted sand.
The marchers pulled the tent down, took the toy sluice box out of the trench and jumped on it to break the boards, and came on again carrying Saul’s spade, his gold pan, frying pan, his dirty blanket.
Crogan said, “Did you ever work the Parsnip, Saul?’’
“There’s no gold on the Parsnip, Johnnie.”
Tom and Augustine were with Charlie, so were the cousins who had sat by the bonfire, and the two from Clayoquot, and six or seven younger men. They had not brought Matthew. Later, he could hear the story chanted. The gang talked to Robinson, then to the cousin who had stayed with John, then to the cousin on the cliff. His was the best recital. He did not confine his gestures to one hand but used his body. Crogan saw Monica in the clawing fingers and when the arms swung it was himself holding the axe.
“I feel like sleeping, Johnnie. Can't sleep without a blanket.”
“It’s too hot for a blanket, Saul.” “Johnnie, I need a blanket.”
A young Somass had dropped the blanket on the ground. Crogan could not blame him. He went for it.
The Indians, all but the sentry on the cliff and Robinson, sat in an open-ended rectangle, the Jacks forming one side, the older men another and the younger ones the third. It interested Crogan to sec that the direction of the conference was not in Charlie's hands. A Clayoquot cousin did the chairmanship. His rule of procedure was simple, he pointed and someone talked.
“Johnnie, there’s gold at Goldbar on the Peace.”
“I’ll meet you there, Saul.”
The old man did not sleep. He threw the blanket over his shoulders and played with sand. The bloody hair on his chin was turning brown.
The conference had ended. The men stood, sat, lay in groups. Charlie talked to Robinson. A buck gathered the old man’s spade, his frying pan and gold pan.
Robinson blew on the stock of the rifle.
Charlie called Ugly John and they both came over to Crogan. Charlie said, “How’s mining, Pat?”
“Slow today, Charlie.”
“We want the old man, Pat.”
“Monica told me Rise and Shine wasn’t coming for him until six.”
“We’ll take him now.”
“Let him have a cigarette, Charlie.” Charlie nodded, and John lit a cigarette in his own mouth and passed it to Crogan.
Crogan said, “Saul, here’s another cigarette.”
“I don’t know where I put mine, Johnnie.”
“Never mind, take this one.”
Dirty blanket, dirty black hat, sleeve in tatters, he was what he was, an idiotic bum.
Charlie said, “Pat, when I go back, I'll take a bottle out of the shack for the boys.”
“Take it all, Charlie.”
“I never paid you for that liquor. Do you want me to give you the money now?”
“Why bother, Charlie? Robinson would be giving it back to you again tomorrow.”
Dirty old Saul. Stinking, brainless vegetable with blood. He needed a keeper. Where could he get a keeper? The answer to that one could be found in four places, in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
“Are you walking him to the army road, Charlie?”
“No. Some of the boys will take him over the path you came in on. They can wait for Rise and Shine on the Tofino road. I want him off the beach.”
“Who’s taking him, Charlie?” “Robinson and a couple of the boys.” “Your boys? John here, and Tom and Augustine?”
“No. Cousins who owe me money.” “Will there be an accident, Charlie?" “What kind of an accident?”
“I don't know. The rotten cedars in the swamp are always falling. Could one fall on him and smash his head? Something happened to Hogashima. Something might have happened to Inkster. Something else happened. Somebody fell off a fishboat.”
“You’re crazy, Pat.”
“No. I'm not crazy.”
“That’s crazy talk, Pat.”
Robinson was standing close by, and the bonfire cousins were behind him. One carried Saul Finlay’s frying pan and gold pan, the other had his spade.
“Charlie,” Crogan said, “does Monica know what’s happening?”
“Why should she, Pat? This is man's business.”
“Does she think you’re taking him to the army road to wait for the horseman?”
“That’s what she thinks. Women don't have to know everything, Pat.”
Saul Finlay knew nothing. There had been other men with scratches on their faces. One had sat on the road to Jericho. He was passed by until an outcast stopped and washed the wounds, not with water but with oil and wine. Crogan looked at Finlay. Dirty old man. Stinking old vegetable.
“Get Robinson out of here,” Crogan said. "Send the old man with John and Tom and Augustine.”
"No, Pat. We had a council. We send him with Robinson.”
“Charlie, I’ll make a bargain with you. Send him with the boys and have them wait with him on the army road." “What’s the bargain, Pat?”
“You know what it is. I'll ask Monica to marry me.”
She said, “I’ll make you a good wife, Mr. Crogan.”
She said, “We’ll go to Paris. If he’s starting to buy seiners for the boys, flecan give me a big honeymoon. I’ll get plenty. I want to sec how those Frenchmen eat.”
“They’ll be the interested ones, Miss Jack.”
“Maybe we’ll go to Ireland. I want to have a look at those natives.”
“Maybe. There’s a grave there I should visit.”
“Whose, Mr. Crogan?”
“My uncle’s. He v/as shot.”
“Who shot him?”
“Yah! those English, Mr. Crogan.”
She said, “Ah! you have nice grey eyes. What have I got?”
“I think you have a demon in you. Mrs. Crogan.”
She said, “Well. 1 guess that’s better than being empty.”
“l)o you like me?”
“Give me your hand.”
“Ah, give me your hand. I wouldn’t hurt anybody. I’m a soft talker.” jg