Vin checked his tabs with the count of fish. The other men slushed decks clean with buckets of sea water.
“Twenty-seven hundred,” MacRae said. “Big morning. Every troller in the Gulf must be here.”
“No, I have to go to Folly Bay and Siwash Islands to-night,” Vin told him. “There’s about twenty boats working there and at Jenkins Pass. Salmon everywhere.”
They sat in the shade of the Blanco’s pilot house. The sun beat mercilessly, a dog-day sun blazing upon glassy waters, reflected upward in eye-straining shafts. The heat seared. Within a radius of a mile outside the Rock the trollers chug-chugged here and there, driving straight ahead, doubling short, wheeling in slow circles, working the eddies. They stood in the small cockpit aft, the short tiller between their legs, leaving their hands free to work the gear. They stood out in the hot sun without shade or cover, stripped to undershirt and duck trousers, many of them barefooted, brown arms bare, wet lines gleaming. Wherever a man looked some fisherman hauled a line. And everywhere the mirror of the sea was broken by leaping salmon, silver crescents flashing in the sun.
“Say, what do you know about it?” Vin smiled at MacRae. “Old Gower is trolling.”
“Rowboat. Plugging around the Rock. He was at it when daylight came. He sold me fifteen fish. Think of it. Old H.A. rowboat trolling. Selling his fish to you.”
Vincent chuckled. His eyes rested curiously on Jack’s face.
“Haughty spirit that goes before destruction, as Dolly used to say,” he rambled on. “Some come-down for him. He must be broke flat as a flounder.”
“He sold you his salmon?”
“Sure. Nobody else to sell ’em to, is there? Said he was trying his hand. Seemed good-natured about it. Kinda pleased, in fact, because he had one more than Doug Sproul. He started joshin’ Doug. You know what a crab old Doug is. He got crusty as blazes. Old Gower just grinned at him and rowed off.”
MacRae made no comment, and their talk turned into other channels until Vin hauled his hook and bore away. MacRae saw to dropping the Blanco’s anchor. He would lie there till dusk. Then he sat in the shade again, looking up at the Gower cottage.
Gower was finished as an exploiter. There was no question about that. When a man as big as he went down the crash set tongues wagging. All the current talk reached MacRae through Stubby. That price-war had been Gower’s last kick, an incomprehensible, ill-judged effort to reestablish his hold on the Squitty grounds, so it was said.
“He never was such a terribly big toad in the cannery puddle,” Stubby recited, “and I guess he has made his last splash. They always cut a wide swath in town, and that sort of thing can sure eat up coin. I’m kind of sorry for Betty. Still, she’ll probably marry somebody with money. I know two or three fellows who would be tickled to death to get her.”