With this parting shot he hurried from the room, and Bull fancied he detected the sound of a chuckle as the man departed.
AN AFFAIR OF OUTPOSTS
The business of making fast the vessel had no interest for Nancy McDonald. The thing that was about her, the thing that had leapt at her out of the haze hanging over the waters of Farewell Cove, as the Myra steamed to her haven, pre-occupied her to the exclusion of everything else. Her feelings were something of those of the explorer suddenly coming upon a new, unguessed world.
“Old Man” Hardy was at her side, waiting for the adjustment of the gangway. He was quietly observing her with a sense of enjoyment at the obvious surprise and interest she displayed. Besides, her beauty charmed him for all his years. And then had she not been entrusted to his especial care by those people who held powerful influence in all concerning the coastal trade upon which he was engaged?
Sachigo was not only a mill. It was a—city. This was the sum of Nancy’s astonishing discovery. And the picture of it held her fascinated. She commented little, she had questioned little of the old skipper at her elbow. The thing she saw was too overwhelming. Besides, reticence was impressed upon her by the nature of her visit.
“It’s a mighty elegant place,” the seaman said at last.
The girl nodded. Then she smiled.
“I’ve seen trolley cars on the seashore. I’ve seen electric standards for lighting. What am I to see next on—Labrador?” she asked.
Captain Hardy laughed.
“You’ve to see the folks who’ve done it all,” he replied. “And—there’s one of ’em.”
He indicated the squat figure of Bat Harker leaning against some bales piled on the quay. Nancy turned in that direction.
She discovered the rough-clad, almost uncouth figure of Bat. She noted his moving jaws as he chewed vigorously. She saw that a short stubble of beard was growing on a normally clean-shaven face, and that the man’s clothing might have been the clothing of any labourer. But the iron cast of his face left her with sudden qualms. It was so hard. To her imagination it suggested complete failure for her mission.
“Is he the—owner? Is he—Mr. Sternford?” Her questions came in a hushed tone that was almost awed.
“No. That’s Bat—Bat Harker. He’s mill-boss.”
“I see.” There was relief in Nancy’s tone. But it passed as the seaman continued.
“Maybe he’s waiting for you though. Are they wise you’re coming along? You don’t see Bat around this quay without he’s lookin’ for some folk to come along on the Myra.”
The gangway clattered out on to the quay, and the man moved toward it.
“We best get ashore,” he said. “You see, mam, my orders are to pass you over to the folks waiting for you. That’ll be—Bat. He’ll pass you on to Sternford. I take it you’ll sleep aboard to-night. Your stateroom’s booked that way. We sail to-morrow sundown, which will give you plenty time looking around if you fancy that way. I allow Sachigo’s worth it. One day it’ll be a big city, if I’m a judge. Will you step this way?”