That would wear off, he assured himself. But he did not always have complete confidence in this assurance. He was aware of a tenacity of impressions and emotions and ideas, once they took hold of him. Old Donald MacRae had been afflicted with just such characteristics, he remembered. It must be in the blood, that stubborn constancy to either an affection or a purpose. And in him these two things were at war, pulling him powerfully in opposite directions, making him unhappy.
Sitting deep in a leather chair, watching the white and red balls roll and click on the green cloth, MacRae recalled one of the maxims of Hafiz:
things greater than all things are
And one is Love and the other is War.’”
MacRae doubted this. He had had experience of both. At the moment he could see nothing in either but vast accumulations of futile anguish both of the body and the soul.
A Renewal of Hostilities
The pussy willows had put out their fuzzy catkins and shed them for delicate foliage when MacRae came back to Squitty Cove. The alder, the maple and the wild cherry, all the spring-budding trees and shrubs, were making thicket and foreshore dainty green and full of pleasant smells. Jack wakened the first morning at daybreak to the muted orchestration of mating birds, the song of a thousand sweet-voiced, unseen warblers. The days were growing warm, full of sunshine. Distant mountain ranges stood white-capped and purple against sapphire skies. The air was full of the ancient magic of spring.
Yet MacRae himself, in spite of these pleasant sights and sounds and smells, in spite of his books and his own rooftree, found the Cove haunted by the twin ghosts he dreaded most, discontent and loneliness. He was more isolated than he had ever been in his life. There was no one in the Cove save an old, unkempt Swede, Doug Sproul, who slept eighteen hours a day in his cabin while he waited for the salmon to run again, a withered Portuguese who sat in the sun and muttered while he mended gear. They were old men, human driftwood, beached in their declining years, crabbed and sour, looking always backward with unconscious regret.
Vin Ferrara was away with the Bluebird, still plying his fish venture. Dolly and Norman Gower were married, and Dolly was back on the Knob in the middle of Squitty Island, keeping house for her husband and Uncle Peter and Long Tom Spence while they burrowed in the earth to uncover a copper-bearing lead that promised a modest fortune for all three. Peter Ferrara’s house at the Cove stood empty and deserted in the spring sun.