“You goin’ down to talk to the boys?” he asked at last.
The man nodded.
“Yes. Right away. I’ll do all I know.”
“They’ll listen to you.”
The other smiled.
“Yes. Till the spook comes back.”
Jean brushed the icicles from about his eyes.
“That’s just it,” he said. “An’ meanwhile the cut’s right plumb down. If this thing don’t quit the mill’s going to starve when the ice breaks. I’ve lost nigh three weeks’ full cut already. It’s—it’s hell!”
The dark man moved away, and Jean sat on over the fire. But his troubled eyes watched the curious figure as it passed over to its outfit. He saw the man stoop over the litter of his goods. He saw him disentangle some garment from the rest. When he came back the furs he had been clad in were either abandoned or hidden under fresh raiment. The man towered an awesome figure in the firelight. He was clad in black from head to foot, and his garment possessed the flowing skirts of a priest.
“I’m going right down to the boys now,” he said. “You best stop around here. Just have an eye to the dogs. It’s best you not being with me.”
Jean nodded. He understood. Accompanied by the camp boss this man’s influence with the boys would have been seriously affected. Alone he was well-nigh all powerful.
“Good,” he said. “For God’s sake do what you can, Father,” he cried. “I’ll stop right here till you get back. So long.”
BULL STERNFORD’S VISION OF SUCCESS
“I’d say it’s best story I’ve listened to since—since—Say, those fellers are pretty big. They surely are.”
Bat Harker stirred. He shifted his feet on the rail of the stove, where the heavy leather soles of his boots were beginning to burn.
Bull’s shining eyes were raised to his.
“Big?” he echoed. “I tell you that feller, Leader, has the widest vision of any man I know.”
He leant back in his chair and imitated his companion’s luxurious attitude. And so they sat silent, each regarding the thing between them from his own angle.
It was the night of Bull’s return from his journey to England. He had completed the final stage only that afternoon. He had travelled overland from the south headland, where he had been forced to disembark from the Myra under stress of weather. It was storming outside now, one of those fierce wind storms of Labrador’s winter, liable to blow for days or only for a few hours.
He and Harker were closeted together in the warm comfort of the office on the hill. Here, without fear of interruption, in the soft lamplight, lounging at their ease, they were free to talk of those things so dear to them, and upon which hung the destiny of their enterprise.
Winter was more than half spent. Christmas and New Year were already seasons which only helped to swell the store of memory. Labrador was frozen to the bone, and would remain so. But there were still two months and more of snow and ice, and storm, to be endured before the flies and mosquitoes did their best to make life unendurable.