“Do you think they will overtake us, Donald?” she asked at length.
“That depends on the wind,” he answered. “If these light airs hold they may overhaul us, because they can spread so much more cloth. But if the westerly freshens—and it nearly always does in the afternoon—I can outsail the Gull. I can drive this old tub full sail in a blow that will make the Gull tie in her last reef.”
“I don’t like it when it’s rough,” the girl said wistfully. “But I’ll pray for a blow this afternoon.”
If indeed she prayed—and her attitude was scarcely prayerful, for it consisted of sitting with one hand clasped tight in her lover’s—her prayer fell dully on the ears of the wind god. The light airs fluttered gently off the bluish haze of Vancouver Island, wavered across the Gulf, kept the sloop moving, but no more. Sixty miles away the mouth of the Fraser opened to them what security they desired. But behind them power and authority crept up apace. In two hours they could distinguish clearly the rig of the pursuing yacht. In another hour she was less than a mile astern, creeping inexorably nearer.
The man in the sloop could only stand on, hoping for the usual afternoon westerly to show its teeth.
In the end, when the afternoon was waxing late, the sternward vessel stood up so that every detail of her loomed plain. She was full cutter-rigged, spreading hundreds of feet of canvas. Every working sail was set, and every light air cloth that could catch a puff of air. The slanting sun rays glittered on her white paint and glossy varnish, struck flashing on bits of polished brass. She looked her name, the Gull, a thing of exceeding grace and beauty, gliding soundlessly across a sun-shimmering sea. But she represented only a menace to the man and woman in the fish-soiled sloop.
The man’s face darkened as he watched the distance lessen between the two craft. He reached under a locker and drew out a rifle. The girl’s high pinkish color fled. She caught him by the arm.
“Donald, Donald,” she said breathlessly, “there’s not to be any fighting.”
“Am I to let them lay alongside, hand you aboard, and then sail back to Maple Point, laughing at us for soft and simple fools?” he said quietly. “They can’t take you from me so easily as that. There are only three of them aboard. I won’t hurt them unless they force me to it, but I’m not so chicken-hearted as to let them have things all their own way. Sometimes a man must fight, Bessie.”
“You don’t know my father,” the girl whimpered. “Nor grandpa. He’s there. I can see his white beard. They’ll kill you, Donald, if you oppose them. You mustn’t do that. It is better that I should go back quietly than that there should be blood spilled over me.”
“But I’m not intending to slaughter them,” the man said soberly. “If I warn them off and they board me like a bunch of pirates, then—then it will be their lookout. Do you want to go back, Bessie? Are you doubtful about your bargain already?”