“All right,” MacRae agreed. “We can arrange that later. I’ll come again.”
He set foot on the porch steps. Then he turned back. A faint flush stole up in his sun-browned face. He held out his hand.
“Shall we cry quits?” he asked. “Shall we shake hands and forget it?”
Gower rose to his feet. He did not say anything, but the grip in his thick, stubby fingers almost made Jack MacRae wince,—and he was a strong-handed man himself.
“I’m glad you came to-day,” Gower said huskily. “Come again—soon.”
He stood on the porch and watched MacRae stride down to the beach and put off in his dinghy. Then he took out a handkerchief and blew his nose with a tremendous amount of unnecessary noise and gesture. There was something suspiciously like moisture brightening his eyes.
But when he saw MacRae stand in the dinghy alongside the Blanco and speak briefly to his men, then row in under Point Old behind Poor Man’s Rock which the tide was slowly baring, when he climbed up over the Point and took the path along the cliff edge, that suspicious brightness in Gower’s keen old eyes was replaced by a twinkle. He sat down in his grass chair and hummed a little tune, the while one slippered foot kept time, rat-a-pat, on the floor of the porch.
As it Was in the Beginning
MacRae followed the path along the cliffs. He did not look for Betty. His mind was on something else, engrossed in considerations which had little to do with love. If it be true that a man keeps his loves and hates and hobbies and ambitions and appetites in separate chambers, any of which may be for a time so locked that what lies therein neither troubles nor pleases him, then that chamber in which he kept Betty Gower’s image was hermetically sealed. Her figure was obscured by other figures,—his father and Horace Gower and himself.
Not until he had reached the Cove’s head and come to his own house did he recall that Betty had gone along the cliffs, and that he had not seen her as he passed. But that could easily happen, he knew, in that mile stretch of trees and thickets, those deep clefts and pockets in the rocky wall that frowned upon the sea.
He went into the house. Out of a box on a shelf in his room he took the message his father had left him and sitting down in the shadowy coolness of the outer room began to read it again, slowly, with infinite care for the reality his father had meant to convey.
All his life, as Jack remembered him, Donald MacRae had been a silent man, who never talked of how he felt, how things affected him, who never was stricken with that irresistible impulse to explain and discuss, to relieve his troubled soul with words, which afflicts so many men. It seemed as if he had saved it all for that final summing-up which was to be delivered by his pen instead of his lips. He had become articulate only at the last. It must have taken him weeks upon weeks to write it all down, this autobiography which had been the mainspring of his son’s actions for nearly two years. There was wind and sun in it, and blue sky and the gray Gulf heaving; somber colors, passion and grief, an apology and a justification.