“I just happened to think of what you said to me not long ago,” Gower explained. “It struck me as funny. But that isn’t how I feel. If you want this land you can have it. Take a chair. Sit down. I want to talk to you.”
“There is nothing the matter with my legs,” MacRae said shortly. “I do want this land. I will pay you the price you paid for it, in cash, when you execute a legal transfer. Is that satisfactory?”
“What about this house?” Gower asked casually. “It’s worth something, isn’t it?”
“Not to me,” MacRae replied. “I don’t want the house. You can take it away with you, if you like.”
Gower looked at him thoughtfully.
“The Scotch,” he said, “cherish a grudge like a family heirloom.”
“Perhaps they do,” MacRae answered. “Why not? If you knock a man down you don’t expect him to jump up and shake hands with you. You had your inning. It was a long one.”
“I wonder,” Gower said slowly, “why old Donald MacRae kept his mouth closed to you about trouble between us until he was ready to die?”
“How do you know he did that?” MacRae demanded harshly.
“The night you came to ask for the Arrow to take him to town you had no such feeling against me as you have had since,” Gower said. “I know you didn’t. You wouldn’t have come if you had. I cut no figure in your eyes, one way or the other, until after he was dead. So he must have told you at the very last. What did he tell you? Why did he have to pass that old poison on to another generation?”
“Why shouldn’t he?” MacRae demanded. “You made his life a failure. You put a scar on his face—I can remember when I was a youngster wondering how he got that mark—I remember how it stood like a ridge across his cheek bone when he was dead. You put a scar upon his soul that no one but himself ever saw or felt—except as I have been able to feel it since I knew. You weren’t satisfied with that. You had to keep on throwing your weight against him for thirty years. You didn’t even stop when the war made everything seem different. You might have let up then. We were doing our bit. But you didn’t. You kept on until you had deprived him of everything but the power to row around the Rock day after day and take a few salmon in order to live. You made a pauper of him and sat here gloating over it. It preyed on his mind to think that I should come back from France and find myself a beggar because he was unable to cope with you. He lived his life without whimpering to me, except to say he did not like you. He only wrote this down for me to read—when he began to feel that he would never see me again—the reasons why he had failed in everything, lost everything. When I pieced out the story, from the day you used your pike pole to knock down a man whose fighting hands were tied by a promise to a woman he loved, from then till the last cold-blooded maneuver by which you got this land of ours, I hated you, and I set out to pay you back in your own coin.