“It might have been a stalemate, at that,” MacRae said.
“But it wasn’t,” Gower declared. “Well, I’ll get something out of living, after all. I’ve often thought I’d like to see a big, roomy house somewhere along these cliffs, and kids playing around. You and Betty may have your troubles, but you’re starting right. You ought to get a lot out of life. I didn’t. I made money. That’s all. Poured it into a rat hole. Bessie is sitting over on Maple Point in a big drafty house with two maids and a butler, a two-thousand-acre estate, and her pockets full of Victory Bonds. She isn’t happy, and she never can be. She never cared for anybody but herself, not even her children, and nobody cares for her, I’m all but broke, and I’m better off than she is. I hate to think I ever fought for her. She wasn’t worth it, MacRae. That’s a hell of a thing for a man to say about a woman he lived with for over thirty years. But it’s true. It took me a good many miserable years to admit that to myself.
“I suppose she’ll cling to her money and go on playing the grande dame. And if she can get any satisfaction out of that I’m willing. I’ve never known as much real peace and satisfaction as I’ve got now. All I need is a place to sleep and a comfortable chair to sit in. I don’t want to chase dollars any more. All I want is to row around the Rock and catch a few salmon now and then and sit here and look at the sea when I’m tired. You’re young, and you have all your life before you—you and Betty. If you need money, you are pretty well able to get it for yourself. But I’m old, and I don’t want to bother.”
He rambled on until Betty came down with plates and other things. The fat clams were opening their shells on the hot rock. They put butter and seasoning on the tender meat and ate, talking of this and that. And when the last clam had vanished, Gower stuffed his pipe and lit it with a coal. He gathered up the plates and forks and rose to his feet.
“Good night,” he said benevolently. “I’m going to the house and to bed. Don’t sit out here dreaming all night, you two.”
He stumped away up the path. MacRae piled driftwood on the fire. Then he sat down with his back against the log, and Betty snuggled beside him, in the crook of his arm. Beyond the Point the booming of the surf rose like far thunder. The tide was on the ebb. Poor Man’s Rock bared its kelp-thatched head. The racing swells covered it with spray that shone in the moonlight.
They did not talk. Speech had become nonessential. It was enough to be together.
So they sat, side by side, their backs to the cedar log and their feet to the fire, talking little, dreaming much, until the fluffy clouds scudding across the face of the moon came thicker and faster and lost their snowy whiteness, until the radiance of the night was dimmed.
Across the low summit of Point Old a new sound was carried to them. Where the moonlight touched the Gulf in patches, far out, whitecaps showed.