He moved swiftly across the room and flung open the door.
“Will you come right in?”
The lumberman heard the invitation. The tone was deep with a gentleness he had never before discovered in it. And in his wonder he craned to see who it was who had inspired it.
Bull moved aside.
It was then that Bat started up from his chair, and a sharp ejaculation broke from him. Nancy McDonald was standing framed in the doorway.
Bat was hurrying down the woodland trail. For once in his hard life he knew the meaning of rank cowardice. The sight of Nancy McDonald had completely robbed him of the last vestige of courage. The atmosphere of the office, that room so crowded with absorbing memories for him, had suddenly seemed to threaten suffocation. He felt he must get out. He must seek the cold, crisp air of the world he knew and understood. So he had fled.
Now he was alone with a riot of thought that was almost chaotic. There was only one thing that stood out clearly, definitely, in his mind. It was the Nemesis of the thing that had happened. It was Nemesis with a vengeance.
His busy jaws worked furiously under his emotion. He spat, and spat again, into the soft white snow. Once he stopped abruptly and gazed back over the circuitous trail. It was as though he must look again upon the thing that had so deeply stirred him, as though he must look upon it to reassure himself that he was not dreaming. That the thing had driven him headlong was real, and not some troublesome hallucination.
Nancy McDonald! The beautiful stepdaughter of Leslie Standing, with her red hair and pretty eyes, was the agent of the Skandinavia, paid to wreck the great work he and Leslie had set up. She was paid to achieve the destruction at—any cost.
It was amazing. It was overwhelming. It was even—terrible.
He pursued his way with hurried steps. And as he went his mind leapt back to the time when he had made his great appeal for the poor, deserted child shut up in the coldly correct halls of Marypoint College. What an irony it all seemed now. Then he remembered her first coming to Sachigo, and the mystery of the letter from Father Adam heralding her arrival. He had understood the moment Nancy had announced her name to him on the quay. He had understood the thought, the hope which had inspired the letter.
In his rugged heart he had welcomed the letter which Father Adam had written. He had welcomed the girl’s first coming to the place he felt should be her inheritance. He had seen in those things the promise of the belated justice for which years ago he had appealed. Father Adam had asked Bull to receive her well. Why? There was only one answer to that in the lumberman’s mind. Father Adam had seen her. He understood her beauty, and had fallen for it. What more reasonable then that Bull should do the same.