He had said his say and got his answer. He turned to go. Betty Gower put a detaining hand on his arm.
“Listen,” she put in eagerly. “Is there anything any of us could do to help? Nursing or—or anything?”
MacRae shook his head.
“There is a girl with him,” he answered. “Nothing but skilled medical aid would help him at this stage. He has the flu, and the fever is burning his life out.”
“The flu, did you say?” The young man with the long cigarette lost his bored air. “Hang it, it isn’t very sporting, is it, to expose us—these ladies—to the infection? I’ll say it isn’t.”
Jack MacRae fixed the young man—and he was not, after all, much younger than MacRae—with a steady stare in which a smoldering fire glowed. He bestowed a scrutiny while one might count five, under which the other’s gaze began to shift uneasily. A constrained silence fell in the room.
“I would suggest that you learn how to put on a gas mask,” MacRae said coldly, at last.
Then he walked out. Betty Gower followed him to the door, but he had asked his question and there was nothing to wait for. He did not even look back until he reached the cliff. He did not care if they thought him rude, ill-bred. Then, as he reached the cliff, the joyous jazz broke out again and shadows of dancing couples flitted by the windows. MacRae looked once and went on, moody because chance had decreed that he should fail.
* * * * *
When a ruddy dawn broke through the gray cloud battalions Jack MacRae sat on a chair before the fireplace in the front room, his elbows on his knees, his chin in his cupped palms. He had been sitting like that for two hours. The fir logs had wasted away to a pile of white ash spotted with dying coals. MacRae sat heedless that the room was growing cold.
He did not even lift his head at the sound of heavy footsteps on the porch. He did not move until a voice at the door spoke his name in accents of surprise.
“Is that you, yourself, Johnny MacRae?”
The voice was deep and husky and kind, and it was not native to Squitty Cove. MacRae lifted his head to see his father’s friend and his own, Doctor Laidlaw, physician and fisherman, bulking large. And beyond the doctor he saw a big white launch at anchor inside the Cove.
“Yes,” MacRae said.
“How’s your father?” Laidlaw asked. “That wire worried me. I made the best time I could.”
“He’s dead,” MacRae answered evenly. “He died at midnight.”
On a morning four days later Jack MacRae sat staring into the coals on the hearth. It was all over and done with, the house empty and still, Dolly Ferrara gone back to her uncle’s home. Even the Cove was bare of fishing craft. He was alone under his own rooftree, alone with an oppressive silence and his own thoughts.