He walked to the after deck, laid hold of the dinghy, and slid it overboard. Five minutes later he had beached it and was walking up the gravel path to the house.
He was conscious of a queer irritation against Gower. If he were willing to sell the place, why did he sit like a spider in his web and demand that victims come to him? MacRae was wary, distrustful, suspicious, as he walked up the slope. Some of the old rancor revived in him. Gower might have a shaft in his quiver yet, and the will to use it.
The Dead and Dusty Past
Gower sat in a deep grass chair, a pipe sagging one corner of his mouth, his slippered feet crossed on a low stool. His rubber sea boots lay on the porch floor as if he had but discarded them. MacRae took in every detail of his appearance in one photographic glance, as a man will when his gaze rests upon another with whom he may be about to clash.
Gower no longer resembled the well-fed plutocrat. He scarcely seemed the same man who, nearly two years before, had absently bestowed upon MacRae a dollar for an act of simple courtesy. He wore nondescript trousers which betrayed a shrunken abdominal line, a blue flannel shirt that bared his short, thick neck. And in that particular moment, at least, the habitual sullenness of his heavy face was not in evidence. He looked placid in spite of the fiery redness which sun and wind had burned into his skin. He betrayed no surprise at MacRae’s coming. The placidity of his blue eyes did not alter in any degree.
“Hello, MacRae,” he said.
“How d’ do,” MacRae answered. “I came to speak to you about a little matter of business.”
“Yes?” Gower rumbled. “I’ve been sort of expecting you.”
“Oh?” MacRae failed to conceal altogether his surprise at this statement. “I understand you are willing to sell this place. I want to buy it.”
“It was yours once, wasn’t it?”
The words were more of a comment than a question, but MacRae answered:
“You know that, I think.”
“And you want it back?”
“If that’s what you want,” Gower said slowly. “I’ll see you in——”
He cut off the sentence. His round stomach—less round by far than it had been two months earlier—shook with silent laughter. His eyes twinkled. His thick, stubby fingers drummed on the chair arm.
MacRae’s face grew hot. He recognized the unfinished sentence as one of his own, words he had flung in Gower’s face not so long since. If that was the way of it he could save his breath. He turned silently.
He faced about at the changed quality of Gower’s tone. The amused expression had vanished. Gower leaned forward a little. There was something very like appeal in his expression. MacRae was suddenly conscious of facing a still different man,—an oldish, fat man with thinning hair and tired, wistful eyes.