By an apparent inconsistency in the natural order of human affairs, it seems that women are called upon far oftener than men to make the hardest sacrifices; also, the call finds them far more willing, if the sacrifice is demanded of them by love. Until Andrew Daney had appeared at the Sawdust Pile with the suddenness of a genie (and a singularly benevolent genie at that), Nan had spent many days wondering what fate the future held in store for her. With all the ardor of a prisoner, she had yearned to leave her jail, although she realized that freedom for her meant economic ruin. On the Sawdust Pile, she could exist on the income from the charter of the Brutus, for she had no rent to pay and no fuel to buy; her proximity to the sea, her little garden and a few chickens still further solved her economic problems. Away from the Sawdust Pile, however, life meant parting with her baby. She would have to place him in some sort of public institution if she would be free to earn a living for them both, and she was not aware that she possessed any adaptability for any particular labor which would enable her to earn one hundred dollars a month, the minimum sum upon which she could, by the strictest economy, manage to exist and support her child. Too well she realized the difficulty which an inexperienced woman has in securing employment in an office or store at a wage which, by the wildest stretch of the imagination, may be termed lucrative, and, lacking funds wherewith to tide her over until she should acquire experience, or even until she should be fortunate enough to secure any kind of work, inevitable starvation faced her. Her sole asset was her voice; she had a vague hope that if she could ever acquire sufficient money to go to New York and buy herself just sufficient clothing to look well dressed and financially independent, she might induce some vaudeville impresario to permit her to spend fifteen minutes twice or four times daily, singing old-fashioned songs to the proletariat at something better than a living wage. She had an idea for a turn to be entitled, “Songs of the ’Sixties.”
The arrival of Andrew Daney with twenty-five hundred dollars might have been likened to an eleventh-hour reprieve for a condemned murderer. Twenty-five hundred dollars! Why, she and Don could live two years on that! She was free—at last! The knowledge exalted her—in the reaction from a week of contemplating a drab, barren future, she gave no thought to the extreme unlikelihood of anyone’s daring to steal a forty-foot motor-boat on a coast where harbors are so few and far between as they are on the Pacific. Had old Caleb been alive, he would have informed her that such action was analogous to the theft of a hot stove, and that no business man possessed of a grain of common sense would have hastened to reimburse her for the loss after an inconsequential search of only two days. Had she been more worldly wise, she would have known that business men do not part with twenty-five hundred dollars that readily—otherwise, they would not be business men and would not be possessed of twenty-five hundred dollars. Nan only realized that, in handing her a roll of bank-notes with a rubber band round them, Andrew Daney had figuratively given her the key to her prison, against the bars of which her soul had beaten for three long years.